By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 19, 2007
The board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's leading general science organization, yesterday issued a consensus statement declaring global climate change "a growing threat to society."
The statement, released at a town hall meeting of school teachers in San Francisco, marked the first time that the board of the influential AAAS, publisher of the journal Science, has taken a stand on global warming. AAAS held its annual meeting there over the weekend and organized the town hall on climate change, along with the California Science Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association and the United Educators of San Francisco, a union group.
The board's statement attributes Earth's recent warming to human activity, noting: "The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years."
The board called for "rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions," warning: "Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs."
It was the second high-profile statement on the issue in recent weeks: Last month, the United States Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of major companies and environmental groups, called for a mandatory cap on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in order to curb further global warming. On Tuesday, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, a coalition of European and U.S. firms such as Air France, Alcoa and Florida Power & Light, chaired by Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, plans to announce a worldwide framework for addressing climate change.
AAAS President John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University, has also publicly backed federal limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
"As droughts, heat waves, floods wildfires and severe storms intensify, damages to ecosystems and human society are growing apace," Holdren, who also directs the Woods Hole Research Center, a research and policy analysis institute in Massachusetts, wrote in a letter to the attendees.
The association aired a video at the town hall focusing on the 600 residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, who live on the shores of the Arctic Ocean and are facing beach erosion and thinning ice. Ken Stenek, a science teacher in Shishmaref who attended the session, said the 4,000-year-old Inupiaq village where he lives has been transformed by rising temperatures.
Susanne Moser, a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said the statement by the society reflected scientists' increasing focus on the question of global warming.
"In some sense, it's a continuation of the confirming and reaffirming and underlining of the consensus of mainstream science on climate change," Moser said. "It's really strengthening the case and political momentum" for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
AAAS also issued at the meeting a teaching guide to global climate change. Teachers said it would help them better educate children about the scientific basis for global warming, since the information on the subject is evolving so quickly.