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Global Warming

Studies-government

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The Environmental Protection Agency sends the United Nations a report on climate change, in which the US admits for the first time that human activity is largely to blame for recent global warming. It attributes rising global surface temperatures to the burning of fossil fuels and details the potential effects of continued warming. For example, the report notes, “A few ecosystems, such as alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely in some areas. Other ecosystems, such as Southeastern forests, are likely to experience major species shifts or break up into a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, and forests.” However the report does not recommend cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Rather it suggests adapting to a warmer climate, saying that nothing can be done about the greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere. Neither industry nor the environmental groups are pleased with the report. Industry’s opinions were conveyed in letters during the comment period in 2002. They had objected to the conclusion that greenhouse gases were contributing to global warming. On the other hand, environmentalists are bewildered by the the administration’s unwillingness to address the problem. “The Bush administration now admits that global warming will change America’s most unique wild places and wildlife forever,” says Mark Van Putten. “How can it acknowledge global warming is a disaster in the making and then refuse to help solve the problem, especially when solutions are so clear?” [Environmental Protection Agency, 5/2002; New York Times, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Mark Van Putten, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

A Pentagon-commissioned analysis on the potential impact of rapid global climate change warns that such an event would likely cause global instability on a massive scale as governments try by any means to defend and secure diminishing food, water, and energy supplies. “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” the report suggests. “Once again, warfare would define human life.” Wealthier nations “may build virtual fortresses around their countries”in order to keep out millions of starving and displaced refugees. The report’s authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network, believe the threat is serious and possibly imminent. Randall tells the London Observer that it may already be too late to avert a disaster. “We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,” he says. In their analysis, the authors say the issue “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern.” It is “plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” The report recommends additional research on the issue and preparing a contingency plan to deal with the potential impacts of a catastrophic change in the climate. “No-regrets strategies should be identified and implemented to ensure reliable access to food supply and water, and to ensure national security.” [US Department of Defense, 10/2003; Fortune, 2/9/2004; Observer, 2/22/2004] The report was commissioned by Andrew Marshall, an influential Defense adviser who heads the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. According to the Observer, the report is suppressed for months by top officials. [Observer, 2/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Schwartz, US Department of Defense, Doug Randall, Andrew Marshall

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Studies-government

The US government’s Climate Change Science Program concludes in an annual report to Congress that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the only likely explanation for the rapid increase in global surface temperatures over the last three decades. It notes further that carbon dioxide and methane levels “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of human activities and are now higher than they have been for over 400,000 years. Since 1750, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent and CH4 [Methane] concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 150 percent.” The report, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretaries of energy and commerce and Bush’s science adviser, represents a dramatic shift in the administration’s view on climate change. Two years prior, when the Environmental Protection Agency similarly concluded in a report (see May 2002) that global warming is the result of human activity, Bush had dismissed it as something “put out by the bureaucracy” (see June 4, 2002). Myron Ebell, of the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that is part of a campaign to discredit the consensus view that global warming is the result of human activity, says the report is “another indication that the administration continues to be incoherent in its global warming policies.” The report also acknowledges studies indicating that higher CO2 levels stimulate invasive weed growth more than it does crop growth. [Climate Change Science Program, 8/25/2004, pp. 79 pdf file; New York Times, 8/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Myron Ebell, Climate Change Science Program

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record. Average temperatures in the US were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than mean temperatures for the 20th century. Seven months were much warmer than average, and December 2006 was the fourth-warmest December on record. An NOAA news release acknowledges that the warming is being caused by human activity. “A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases,” it states. “People should be concerned about what we are doing to the climate,” says Jay Lawrimore, chief of NOAA’s climate monitoring branch in Asheville, NC. “Burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases and there’s a broad scientific consensus that [it’s] producing climate change.” [National Climatic Data Center, 1/9/2007; United Press International, 1/10/2007; New York Times, 1/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Jay Lawrimore, National Climatic Data Center

Category Tags: Studies-government

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
bullet Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
bullet Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
bullet Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
bullet Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
bullet “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
bullet The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
bullet Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
bullet If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
bullet The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Responses -
bullet Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
bullet John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
bullet Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2/2/2007 pdf file; New York Times, 2/3/2007; Independent, 2/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Michel Jarraud, John P. Holdren, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Achim Steiner, Richard B. Alley

Category Tags: Causal factors, Hurricane intensity, Studies-government

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