Tag Archives: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Climate Risks and Costs

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also issued a climate change report and opened an explanatory website, What We Know. Like the Climate Change Report discussed previously, this includes a brief overview of the climate science. However, it focuses on three basic statements:

  1. Climate change is happening. There is no real disagreement.
  2. There are risks to climate change, including extreme events, albeit less likely.
  3. Acting sooner is better and cheaper.

Like I opened this blog, the report begins by stating that the global scientific community agrees — climate change is real and humans are the cause. The report lists many of the common indicators: shrinking sea ice, ice sheets, and glaciers; ocean acidification; sea-level rise; etc.

This report is slightly different in that it discusses climate change in terms of risks. There is a real chance, however small, that your house will burn down. Even though it’s unlikely, you are still wise to buy insurance, have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and make a plan of escape. Then, by looking at the potential bad outcomes, what responses need to be made to avoid them. From what I’ve read, the upcoming IPCC report also talks in terms of risks and probabilities.

One quibble of mine is that the report dabbles a bit too much with the “sky is falling” rhetoric. Topics at the high-end of impact such as ecosystem collapse, destabilized sea-floor methane, or permafrost melt are certainly possible, but probably better left to Hollywood blockbusters. Focusing on these extremes will lead to the same problem Chicken Little had … people stop listening.

The report ends on a hopeful note that American Ingenuity™ can solve all these problems. The phrasing strikes me as a bit jingoistic, but the content is reasonable. We have the technology and capability to minimize the risks and damage of climate change. We just need the will and money to act. Yeah, just that simple. <sarcasm>