By Lewis SmithPressure on the White House to act on scientific assessments of global warming mounted yesterday after the world’s largest general scientific society said that climate change was a “threat to society”.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) joined the growing clamour for political action in a public statement approved by its board.
It is the first time that the AAAS, which represents 262 societies and scientific academies, has published a statement of consensus on climate change. It was issued on Sunday during a conference where a series of studies added weight to the body of evidence of human impact on the climate and environment.
In the statement the association said: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.
“Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilisation of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more.
“The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.
“The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action.”
The statement reflects growing frustration among US scientists with the White House’s reluctance to tackle climate change.
In June 2005 the national academies of science for all the G8 countries and those of Brazil, India and China issued a joint statement demanding an end to political procrastination. Among the signatories was Bruce Alberts, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, but there has been little shift since then in President Bush’s position.
The AAAS said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were higher than they had been for at least 650,000 years and that temperatures were heading to “levels not experienced for millions of years”.
The association said that the result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation was already being observed in the intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires and severe storms.