Today’s guest blog comes from David Reidmiller, Ph.D, a Physical Science Officer at the United States Department of State and a former AAAS Science Policy Fellow.
Understanding the effects of human activity on the chemistry of the atmosphere and the physics of the Earth’s climate system is a challenge being pursued across the planet by scientists in industry, universities, and government labs.
Since 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has brought scientists together from across the world to summarize ongoing research in how Earth’s climate is changing and what role human activity plays in this change. The IPCC is also tasked with understanding the implications of achanging climate on human health and the environment and what policies will be useful in mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases and facilitating the adaptation to climate change.
The IPCC’s mandate is not to set policy. Instead it aims to provide relevant information to policy makers on the latest science and understanding from the global science community. From this common understanding, governments may develop domestic plans and negotiate international agreements to tackle climate change.
The IPCC recently released the Working Group I (WGI) report for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on Climate Change. It covers the scientific observations of climate change, how human activity impacts global climate and presents projections of how the Earth system may change as a result of a warmer world. The WGI authors assert that human actions are causing a warming of the atmosphere and ocean. This warming is leading to changes in precipitation patterns and is raising sea level. It lays out many compelling reasons for world governments to take collective, ambitious action to address climate change.
The U.S. government is highly involved in the IPCC process. Scientists from across the government – myself included – directly participate in the process. In fact, more scientists participated as authors for the AR5 Working Group I report from the United States than from any other country and one third of those scientists were employed by the Federal government. I was fortunate enough to be part of the U.S. delegation to Stockholm for the Approval Session (see photos!) – a fascinating experience where scientists and policymakers had collegial and productive conversations about what is happening, why it’s happening and what we can do about it – often until the wee hours of the morning!
The U.S. government supports the IPCC assessment that climate change is a significant threat to human wellbeing. We are committed with our partners at COP19 to have the latest findings from the best scientific minds in the world (IPCC) guide us to an ambitious, durable, and inclusive agreement in 2015.
Want to learn more about US-led climate science programs? The U.S. Center at COP 19 in Warsaw will host many events with a climate science focus that are available to everyone on the web. Visit the U.S. Center website for more information on all of its events and to learn how you can participate!