Editorial: 5 reasons for frustration — and hope — as the world prepares for another U.N. climate summit
Editor’s note: The U.N. climate talks, officially known as the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) are only four months away, and the stakes are high as we approach the last big meeting among the world’s nations to address climate change.
The U.S. has been leading the charge on fighting climate change, in large part because of a new report that showed a clear link between human activities and climate change. The report, the so-called National Climate Assessment, was published in December by the Obama Administration and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The assessment was completed by more than 1,000 scientists representing more than 130 federal agencies in the administration and in academia.
As the new report notes, “The assessment is not the last word in climate research and science, nor does it present a final interpretation of global climate change.” But it is significant as the most authoritative climate science report ever produced.
In just two weeks, the final text of the assessment will be submitted to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for review and final review. In it, the world’s top climate experts will assess whether the most recent projections about the global and regional impacts of climate change are “detailed, factual, and support a range of plausible future climate extremes,” as the report’s summary says.
On the margins, however, there is a new element to the report. For the first time publicly, the report gives an account of the United States’ past. According to the report’s author, Michael E. Mann, one of my former students and one of the co-authors on the recent IPCC report, “The climate changes we’ve observed are the result of changes we are choosing to make.” But when the U.S. government makes a decision not to act on climate change or to