In a world where everything from revolutions to extreme weather events is attributed (in some way) to global warming, it is helpful when a body of diverse experts come together to review and discuss what we currently know about the impacts of climate change. So the report issued yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences is very much worth reading if you are interested in this aspect of the climate debate. Its importance is captured nicely in this nugget from the news release:
“Research has helped us begin to distinguish more imminent threats from those that are less likely to happen this century,” said James W.C. White, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “Evaluating climate changes and impacts in terms of their potential magnitude and the likelihood they will occur will help policymakers and communities make informed decisions about how to prepare for or adapt to them.”
I spent several hours reading the report last night, which you can download for free. I’m impressed by its breadth, depth, and mostly judicious tone. Of course, many people are going to take away from it what they will. For some it reinforces the danger of global warming, and for others it’s too sanguine about how to deal with looming climate threats. (Others are ridiculously dismissive of the report altogether.) Media coverage was widespread yesterday, from Science and NPR to the Associated Press and USA Today. Andy Revkin provided useful background at Dot Earth and Dan Vergano at National Geographic did exemplary spot news reporting that provided valuable context.
If you’re in the market for a gloomier dose of climate catastrophism, read the Hanson el al paper at PLOS ONE, also published yesterday. (I read that one too, last night.) You can see the press release at the Guardian and an overview of the paper at Scientific American. I’m not aware of any mainstream news articles or blog post that includes the voices of any climate experts unaffiliated with the paper who might differ with its conclusions. If you know of one such story, please let me know.