31 scientific bodies tell US Congress: Climate change is real

'The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades'

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 28 June 2016 16:16 BST
The US Capitol building in Washington, DC
The US Capitol building in Washington, DC

The idea that climate change is a vast global conspiracy -- involving everyone from Nasa and the British Met Office to Chinese government scientists and – has persisted in the United States to an alarming degree.

So much so that more than 180 members of Congress are believed to be climate deniers, including Senator Jim Inhofe, who once tossed a snowball to the presiding officer in February, saying: “You know what this is? It’s a snowball, from outside here. So it’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.” Washington DC gets an average of about 12cm (5 inches) of snow in February.

Now 31 major scientific organisations in the US – including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics – have signed a joint letter to Congress urging them to accept that climate change is real and action needs to be taken.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,” they write.

“This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

“There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.

“For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.”

The letter adds that to reduce the risk of the “most severe” impacts of climate change, “greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced”.

“In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others,” the signatories say.

“We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.”

They can expect a frosty reception from some, particularly Mr Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and is also the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

Last year, during the talks about the Paris climate agreement, Mr Inhofe told a meeting of sceptics: “I look forward to hearing what kind of cover-up deal emerges from this international climate conference.

“And you guys here in this room, as you always have, just keep it up. Our progress would not have happened without you. You’re doing the Lord’s work, and we’re going to win this thing together.”

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