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Climate change: what scientists say

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has issued a bold call for action related to climate change. With the publication of a report on the subject entitled “What We Know,” the organization delivers an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.

But the organization ups the ante. CEO Alan Leshner, in a letter to members 14 May, says that it’s not enough to simply issue another report. Leshner’s letter says it’s time to “change the conversation from whether the earth is warming to just how we are going to work together to alter the course our planet is on.” He calls on scientists to work together to alert the United States and the world to “severe outcomes that could occur through inaction or continued resistance to change.”

The report cites polls in which a large minority of Americans still think there is significant disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is real. While 97% of scientists* agree about it, only 42% of Americans are aware of the consensus. The AAAS “What We Know” initiative aims to change the conversation based on three R’s: Reality, Risk, and Response.

* A humorous approach: The comedy show Last Week Tonight
recently demonstrated what 97% versus 3% looks like,
in its segment “Climate Change Debate” [4:26]
By coincidence, today (20 May) is World Metrology Day. But not surprisingly, this year’s theme is “Measurements and the global energy challenge.” Almost every aspect of the fight to document and respond to climate change depends on measurement.

To dig deeper into some of that, check out a new special section in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS)The section details work of scientists and engineers developing new technologies and methods to observe biophysical changes from space, helping to monitor and address phenomena from shrinking glaciers to water runoff from urban development. The papers in the special section are among outcomes of “Earth observation for sensitive variables of global change: mechanisms and methodologies,” a years-long project of the National Basic Research Program of China.

“Global change now poses a severe threat to the survival and development of humankind,” said guest editor Huadong Guo, director of the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Comprehensive observation by multiple remote sensing systems could provide an effective means for accurately observing global change.”

The United Nations has had a lot to say about climate change lately as well. As part of a global effort to mobilize action and ambition on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is inviting heads of state and government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to a climate summit in September in New York City.

And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which demonstrated last month that global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change, is seeking comment from experts for its Synthesis Report to be finalized in October.

These are bold calls to action, as they are meant to be -- and 97% of scientists can tell you why.

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