THe Reality

Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. Based on well-established evidence, over 90% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and reinforced by public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of scientific experts in this field. Average global temperature has increased by about 1.4˚F over the last 100 years. The evidence is escalating: Temperatures are increasing. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. The oceans are acidifying. Learn more about What We Know.

The Risks

We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts. Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes. Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system. Learn more about What We Know.

The response

The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do. Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk. The CO 2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries, and longer. It is not like pollution from smog or wastes in our lakes and rivers, where levels respond quickly to the effects of targeted policies. The effects of CO 2 emissions cannot be reversed from one generation to the next until there is a large- scale, cost-effective way to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases. By making informed choices now, we can reduce risks for future generations and ourselves, and help communities adapt to climate change. People have responded successfully to other major environmental challenges such as acid rain and the ozone hole with benefits greater than costs, and scientists working with economists believe there are ways to manage the risks of climate change while balancing current and future economic prosperity. Learn more about What We Know.

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