In 2008, Congress commissioned a report about climate change by the most important scientific institution in the US, the National Academy of Sciences. The study was (finally) released yesterday in three parts by a wing of the Academy, the National Research Council, saying that humans are most definitely to blame for climate change, and to boot they’ve outlined actions that we can take to reverse it. Congress is calling it the largest report on climate change ever, and it details the need for carbon taxes, renewable energy investment, carbon sequestering technologies, implementation of wide reaching policies and the need to address equity issues concerning who is most deeply affected by climate change.
Up until now we’ve mostly seen reports that are all about he did, she did. He polluted that, she emitted that. There is a lot of pointing fingers and very little outline of action. This report changes is different. It calls for the United States to step up, take immediate action to seriously reduce our emissions and to become the world leader in the fight against climate change. There is an entire section discussing the fact that the US alone can’t stop global warming by reducing emissions, but we can set the stage for the world to follow in our footsteps if we do the right thing.
The right thing is a lot of things, actually. The report notes that our current business practices threaten our existence. It asks for a stringent national greenhouse gas budget framework into which all further policies regulating industry should fit. It calls for policies across the government that are flexible and make room for the use of the incredible innovation available now and recommends giving national, state and local governments room to use local talent and provide the support necessary to make advancements successful.
Most interestingly perhaps, the report notes that people of lower income levels are likely to suffer disproportionately because of climate change. Job losses will affect this group as high polluting industries are scaled out. However, job opportunities are likely to rise as green manufacturing increases. The report calls for assistence from the government to make this transition smooth by providing education, training and retraining programs for people in low income brackets.
The report also calls for the US to design innovative ways to prepare for rising water levels, noting that if the globe continues to warm it is likely that our coastlines will shrink. All-in-all this report seems like a great outline for what we as a country should do next. Though, as we’ve seen all along in the fight against climate change the emergence of new science does not a change make. Let’s hope Congress takes these suggestions seriously, passes their recent climate bill and starts helping the world make big changes towards fighting this problem.