AAAS Letter to climate change doubters in Congress

climate change letter to congressThe American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has sent a letter to all members of congress, and that includes the many climate denialists. It has been signed by 31 leading scientific organisations and is as follows …

Dear Members of Congress,

We, as leaders of major scientific organizations, write to remind you of the consensus scientific view of climate change.

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. 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.1

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.

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.

American Association for the Advancement of Science American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Meteorological Society
American Public Health Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists American Society of Naturalists
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Botanical Society of America
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Entomological Society of America
Geological Society of America
National Association of Marine Laboratories
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society for Mathematical Biology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society of Nematologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

1) The conclusions in this and the preceding paragraph reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. National Academies, and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many scientific societies have endorsed these findings in their own statements, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Statistical Association, Ecological Society of America, and Geological Society of America.

It is a nobel effort and is to be applauded, but will in all probability fall upon deaf ears. Past experience is often a good predictor for future behaviour. Back in 2009 a similar letter was issued by the AAAS, and has been robustly and vigorously ignored by the denialists.

Things have moved on since then. We have now had the two warmest years ever (2014 and 2015), and 2016 is well on track to smashing those records. For the past 8 months each and every month has been the warmest ever, the warmest January ever recorded, the warmest February ever recorded, etc.. These facts are not a surprise, nor are they something these members of congress have not heard before, and so something to appreciate is that the key issue here is not a lack of information.

The challenge is that these deniers are individuals who embrace their denial, not for fact based reasons, but rather for emotional ones. When you don’t value expertise, nor respect any of the listed organisations as a truly credible source, but instead permit the policy of the tribe you belong to, to dominate without actually questioning it, then (no pun intended) that will Trump both reason and common sense.

What virtually every major science organization is warning us about is worrisome. There is no prize for being right as scientists. In fact, if my understanding of the science is correct, my kids lose. So I pray daily that we are wrong.” – Marshall Shepherd, a past-president of the American Meteorological Society and professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia

The only real hope here is not persuasion, but rather the ballot box next November. It will be your opportunity to elect individuals who truly do value the expertise and guidance of subject matter experts, and replace those who maintain what is basically an anti-science stance.

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