This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Scientific concerns about the impacts and risks of global climate change are scarcely new. In 1988, those concerns became sufficiently widespread in the scientific community that the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee that included hundreds of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, to study the emerging climate problem and its implications. Since its creation, this panel has issued five full extensive reports. These assessments were soundly criticized by some independent climate scientists as understating the significance and dangers of climate change. However, earlier this month, the IPCC seems to have rectified that purported problem.
In the first segment of its Sixth Assessment, issued earlier this month, the IPCC report states that it "provides a full and comprehensive assessment of the physical science basis of climate change that builds upon the previous assessments … and considers new information and knowledge from the recent scientific literature, including longer observational data sets, new scenarios and model results." This authoritative document draws conclusions that are deeply alarming. While (like all prior assessments) the report does not recommend specific remedial actions, the latest report implicitly suggests an urgent need for collective action to avoid natural devastation and massive future human catastrophes.
The report notes recent advances in climate science. Climate modeling has become more sophisticated and precise, and much helpful new data has been collected through the deployment of additional satellites and ocean buoys and recent robust analyses of ice cores and peat bogs.
New data demonstrates that current climate changes have had little precedent. Atmospheric carbon levels have not been this high for at least 2 million years, and the past five years are "the hottest five-year period in the instrumental record since at least 1850." Moreover, human activities have "unequivocally" warmed our planet. Without question, the rapid rise in global temperatures since the 19th century has been driven by massive human atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Read the full op-ed in The Hill.