In its final report on America’s Climate Choices, the National Research Council asserts that there is a “pressing need for substantial action” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The report, written at the request of Congress (P.L. 110-161), involved over 90 representatives from academia, government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations.

Following is a statement by Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Program, World Resources Institute:

“This report, from one of America’s leading scientific institutions, provides another stark reminder of the increasing risks associated with human-caused climate change. The report delivers a clear message that the federal government should take an active role in managing these very serious risks. We need policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as we advance adaptation measures and develop technologies to respond to the changing world.

“We don’t wait for the flood to arrive or the fire to spark before we buy insurance. The same should be true for climate change.”

Background on the report:

The final report, co-authored by scientific experts, economists, policy specialists, business leaders, and engineers, confirms that climate change is not only already happening, but cannot be explained by natural factors alone. Climate change is, instead, very likely caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

The authors conclude that uncertainty should not be used to justify inaction, and they note that there is much to learn from how people manage risks associated with other problems. For example, businesses and people purchase insurance for damages to property, although it is unknown whether a fire will occur or what its magnitude would be. The private sector plans for a variety of different economic situations although it is impossible to know for sure what the future will bring.

According to the authors, early action is needed to address the risks posed by climate change. Given that climate change risks, as well as our understanding of them, will change over time, the report suggests that a flexible risk management approach is necessary where actions are continuously updated and revised over time, yet are durable to address the long-term nature of climate change.

The report puts forward seven specific recommendations:

  1. The United States should reduce emissions of greenhouses gases “substantially,” given the risks and impacts of climate change.

  2. Initiatives to advance adaptation to climate change should be embraced at all societal levels, and a national adaptations strategy should be developed and implemented.

  3. The US Government should maintain and enhance research that strengthens our understanding of climate change and ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

  4. The US Government should develop and improve information systems related to climate change.

  5. Public engagement processes should be incorporated into scientific analyses and the policymaking process.

  6. The United States should “actively engage” in international climate change efforts.

  7. The US Government should facilitate coordination across climate change response activities.

Read the National Research Council’s press release and the report: