Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Earth News: Adapt, Mitigate or Die

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Earth News: Adapt, Mitigate or Die

Article excerpt

Introduction

If the Earth could communicate to its residents, a warning scripted on the clouds might read: Adapt, Mitigate or Die. With increasing evidence for the human contribution to increased carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, foresight and action are critical to evade an uninhabitable environment for future generations. The first part of this paper presents evidence supporting human-influenced climate change and its effects on crops and human health. Strategies by which the world's populace can adapt to a warmer environment or mitigate (lessen) the negative impact of climate change are found in the second part. Emphasis is placed on mitigation since effective mitigation strategies could decrease the need for adapting to higher global temperatures.

1.0 Brief overview of climate change research

The complex, interactive array of the atmosphere, land surface, snow, ice, oceans, lakes and all living things forms the Earth's climate system. What is known today about this system comes from the work of literally thousands of scientists over the span of three centuries. As early as the 1800s, British scientist John Tyndall (NASA 2009) suggested that the atmosphere gasses, specifically carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]), affected the earth's temperature. Later in the 19th century, Svante Arrhenius from Stockholm published the first calculation of global warming attributed to human emissions of carbon dioxide (Arrhenius 1896, 237-76). Four decades later, Guy Stewart Callendar presented evidence to the London-based Royal Meteorological Society that burning fossil fuels caused global warming (Callendar 1938, 223-240). First to confirm the accumulation of C[O.sub.2], Charles David Keeling measured C[O.sub.2] emissions atop the volcanic peak on Mauna Loa in Hawaii for almost 50 years (Scripps n.d). Data from Mauna Loa have often been called the "Keeling Curve," a symbol of the impact of human activity on planet Earth. For readers wanting a more in-depth history of climate change research, The Discovery of Global Warming (2003) by Spencer R. Weart is recommended.

Since these initial discoveries, researchers from the physical, biological, and social sciences have exponentially increased knowledge about climate change and its effects on the Earth. As evidence accumulated, it became evident that climate change findings needed to be placed into the hands of decision-makers and government leaders. In 1988, global organizations of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Wean 2003). This Panel was mandated to provide an objective source of information about climate change. Since its origination, IPCC has prepared scientifically based reports about climate change and its impact on the planet and its inhabitants, in addition to strategies for adapting to a warmer environment and mitigating the increase in global temperatures. For the non- scientist reader, a user-friendly edition of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is available in Dire Predictions--Understanding Global Warming (Mann and Kump 2008). Efforts of climate scientists from around the world and IPCC have not gone unnoticed. In 2007, IPCC and Al Gore, Jr. were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures needed to counteract such change" (IPCC n.d.). At the March 10-12th International Scientific Congress meeting (ISC 2009) on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, the key message was that the worse-case IPCC scenario climatic trends are being realized sooner than expected. Global average surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet changes, ocean acidification and extreme climatic events have moved beyond the patterns of natural variability and are at risk for abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts. …

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