America's Climate Choices: The Process and The Summit

WASHINGTON, DC, February 17, 2009 (ENS) – After years of being governed by climate skeptics and deniers, America is plunging into the process of choosing how to deal with the undeniable fact of global warming.

At the request of Congress, a two-day summit on America’s Climate Choices will be convened by the National Academy of Sciences on March 30 and 31, with a focus on how to limit the magnitude of climate change and adapt to its impact.

Climate change experts will meet with members of Congress and the Obama administration, as well as with business leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, to set the stage for national action on climate change.

They will consider how to advance climate change science in order to increase understanding of how human actions and nature interact to drive climate change; improve systems for modeling and observing climate change; and enhance the accuracy of warnings for regions that may be most vulnerable.

Ensuring that climate change policy is informed by scientific evidence is high on the agenda. A live video webcast of the summit will be online at:

Summit organizers hope that it will kick-start an open dialogue among important voices on climate change as the country and world grapple with what to do next.

Warming temperatures and drought have created wildfire conditions across California. Here, firefighters address the Hummingbird Fire in Morgan Hill, California. June 2008. (Photo by Neal Waters)

Presentations at the summit also will inform a series of reports from four panels convened by the Committee on America’s Climate Choices due out later this year.

The 23 member Committee on America’s Climate Choices will issue an overarching report in 2010 that will integrate the findings and recommendations from the four panel reports and other sources to identify the most effective short-term actions and most promising long-term strategies, investments, and opportunities for responding to climate change.

More than 90 experts from universities, scientific and public health organizations, national laboratories, corporations, federal and state government agencies and environmental groups have volunteered to serve on four study panels that will issue consensus reports. The panels are weighted heavily to university participants with only a few representatives from environmental groups.

One panel will address the question: “What can be done to limit the magnitude of future climate change?” This panel will describe, analyze, and assess strategies for reducing the net future human influence on climate, including both technology and policy options. The panel will focus on actions to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions and other human drivers of climate change, such as changes in land use, but will also consider the international dimensions of climate stabilization.

A second panel will address the question: “What can be done to adapt to the impacts of climate change?” This panel will focus on actions and strategies to reduce vulnerability, increase adaptive capacity, improve resiliency, and promote successful adaptation to climate change in different regions, sectors, systems, and populations. The costs, benefits, limitations, tradeoffs, and uncertainties associated with different options and strategies will be assessed.

A third panel will address the question: “What can be done to better understand climate change and its interactions with human and ecological systems?” This panel will first provide a concise overview of past, present, and future climate change, including its causes and its impacts, then recommend steps to advance our current understanding, including new observations, research programs, next-generation models, and the physical and human assets needed to support these and other activities.

A fourth panel will address the question: “What can be done to inform effective decisions and actions related to climate change?” This panel will describe and assess activities, products, strategies, and tools for informing decision makers about climate change and helping them plan and execute effective, integrated responses.

Members of the public are invited to submit input on the questions and content to be considered by the panels through April 17, 2009. Click here [] and select a panel to suggest questions for the study to address or to submit literature or opinion pieces to be considered during the study process.

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