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Bringing Integrity Back to Science: The US National Academy of Sciences Letter on Climate Change

Amidst a surge of questions on the veracity of climate change, 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, which since 1863 has advised the government on scientific and technological issues, have expressed their disturbance by these recent “political assaults” and have made it clear: “humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.”

In a letter published on May 7 in Science Magazine, these leading scientists denounced those who deny climate change as “driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.”  This unusually blunt letter was reportedly drafted in response to the remarks by Republican Senator James M. Inhofe (OK) who labeled climate change data as a "hoax" and to state-based groups like the Heartland Institute, which has promoted "climate denial" propaganda in statehouses around the country.

The letter outlines fundamental premises for which there is a scientific consensus:

  1. The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere.  A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
  2. Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  3. Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
  4. Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times.
  5. The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

It is now, the undersigners insist, that policy makers must move forward to address the causes of climate change. The letter comes as Senators Kerry and Lieberman are ready to introduce a comprehensive clean energy bill this week in the Senate and as states continue to promote their own versions of climate change legislation.

Resources:
The National Academy of Sciences
Science Magazine
-Climate Change and the Integrity of Science
San Francisco Chronicle -Climate Scientists Decry 'Political Assaults'