May 6, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Climate change, once thought to be a problem for future generations, "has moved firmly into the present" and is having an impact in all corners of the United States, according to a comprehensive government report released today. Indiana University experts comment on the report; they address the following topics:
Sara Pryor, Provost Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Geological Sciences at IU Bloomington, is a member of the panel of scientists that produced the report and is the convening lead author of the chapter on climate change in the Midwest. The section has six key messages:
Pryor is the author of numerous publications on atmospheric science and climate, including "Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation" (IU Press, 2013). She can be reached at email@example.com. Top
Atmospheric scientist Phil Stevens, Rudy Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington, said the report establishes that U.S. temperatures continue increasing and the effects of climate change are already being seen -- despite the cold weather that hit much of the nation this winter and the perception by some that global warming is not occurring.
"Unfortunately, we will likely continue to see these and other impacts for the next several decades as the increased greenhouse gases that we have already added to the atmosphere will lead to additional warming, even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gases today," Stevens said. "However, we can minimize the impacts if we begin reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases soon, which will require moving away from combustion of fossil fuels."
Stevens said there are additional benefits, beyond climate change, to reducing CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. These include "a reduction in emissions that lead to the formation of smog and fine particulate pollution, which is still a health concern in the U.S."
A. James Barnes, professor in the School of Public of Environmental Affairs and the Maurer School of Law at IU Bloomington, called the report "another siren alerting us to the reality that we have set in motion changes in our physical, chemical and biological environment of a nature and at a pace not seen for hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of years."
Barnes said the report should focus public and policymakers' attention on how climate change is already affecting people living in the United States and on how its effects will increase in the future.
"At the same time," he said, "we cannot -- and should not -- rest smugly or comfortably with the notion that we will be able to mitigate some of the impacts that might affect us individually, and ignore the fact that for many others on the planet this will not be possible."
Barnes, a former deputy administrator and general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is an authority on environmental law and international environmental policy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Top