Three new studies were issued today by the National Academies emphasizing why the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The reports, by the Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciencies and the National Academy of Engineering, are part of a congressionally requested suite of five studies known as America’s Climate Choices.
Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said today:
Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems.
In addition, according to the press release:
Although limiting emissions must be a global effort to be effective, strong U.S. actions to reduce emissions will help encourage other countries to do the same. In addition, the U.S. could establish itself as a leader in developing and deploying the technologies necessary to limit and adapt to climate change.
The report does not recommend a specific target for a domestic emissions budget, but suggests a range of emissions from 170 to 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent for the period 2012 through 2050 as a reasonable goal, a goal that is roughly in line with the range of emission reduction targets proposed recently by the Obama administration and members of Congress. Even at the higher end of this range, meeting the target will require a major departure from “business-as-usual” emission trends. The report notes that with the exception of the recent economic downtown, domestic emissions have been rising for most of the past three decades. The U.S. emitted approximately 7 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2008 (the most current year for which such data were available). If emissions continue at that rate, the proposed budget range would be used up well before 2050, the report says.