Global Warming Wake-Up Call (again!) to Congress

A large consortium of the country’s scientific organizations have sent the following letter to congress:

June 28, 2016

Dear Members of Congress,

We, as leaders of major scientific organizations, write to remind you of the consensus scientific view of climate change.

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.1

To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.

We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.

American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Meteorological Society
American Public Health Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Naturalists
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Botanical Society of America
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Entomological Society of America
Geological Society of America
National Association of Marine Laboratories
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society for Mathematical Biology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society of Nematologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

1 The conclusions in this and the preceding paragraph reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. National Academies, and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many scientific societies have endorsed these findings in their own statements, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Statistical Association, Ecological Society of America, and Geological Society of America.

You can read more about it here and here.

Can’t say we weren’t warned.

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24 responses to “Global Warming Wake-Up Call (again!) to Congress

  1. “…and lessons not learned, will be repeated.”

  2. that should do it! I expect brisk action from Congress. And everyone gets a pony!

  3. Good effort. But we’re all in it with nature as a global conspiracy, you see. Ask Lamar Smith and Ted Cruz!

  4. rhymeswithgoalie

    Sorry, but if the letter didn’t come with a bribecampaign contribution, I don’t see how it will make a difference to the deniers.

  5. Eric Swanson

    We breathlessly await the in depth replies from Cruz, Inhofe, McConnell, Barton, L. Smith, Ryan, etc. For those living in the US, please take the time to contact your congress critters…

    • “…please take the time to contact your congress critters…”

      First thing I did upon reading the item. I hope lots of others had the same reaction.

      Everyone may just possibly not ‘get a pony’, to use Mike’s figure of speech, but it can’t hurt for said critters to know that there is a constituency for sense on climate.

  6. Tracy Hamilton

    Notably missing: American Physics Society.

  7. I have been sickened my climate scientists comparing themselves to “planetary physicians” and saying they have no right to do more than diagnose and urgently advise appropriate changes in lifestyle and other treatments and that the patient must decide what to do or not do. In their immoral implicatory denial, they conveniently forget that a physician has an obligation to quarantine a patient whose illness represents a clear threat to other people and society as a whole. Katharine Hayhoe is right in suggesting that calling for a basin of water and washing your hands can remove your responsibility, just as it did for ol’ Pontius Pilate in days of yore.

  8. This misunderstands how change comes about, we need a significant minority of the population normalizing low emisisons behaviour before anybody pays attention. Until then it’s just a bunch of profligate emitters telling other profligate emitters they have to change. Does anyone listen to the spouse beating their spouse cajoling others to stop beating their spouse ? Someone needs to walk to the front of the bus.

    Until we lead, the politicians will not follow.. Actions matter.

    • You might be interested in this author, Keya Chatterjee, and her book:

      Could you talk about the low-carbon lifestyle you lived before you had your baby?

      We were maybe living an unusual lifestyle. We didn’t have a car, we didn’t have a refrigerator, we used very, very little electricity and our solar panels more than covered what we used in our home.

      So it was kind of clear to us that we weren’t going to be able to live that way with a baby. I was working outside the home. I was going to be pumping milk. I needed a place to keep that milk. I was going to have to get a fridge. And so I knew there were things we were going to have to do that would raise our carbon footprint. And what I wanted to figure out is could we minimize those increases.

      • Thanks. We all suffer from the disconnect between the necessary and the possible. Illustrations bring us back to reality. We can but persist, there is no other choice.

    • T-Rev: “we need a significant minority of the population normalizing low emisisons behaviour before anybody pays attention.”

      Voluntary actions by individuals to reduce their personal carbon footprint shouldn’t be discouraged, but won’t be enough on their own, because AGW is a tragedy of the commons. Effective mitigation will require collective action on multiple levels of social organization, from the municipal on up. Measures on the national level will have the biggest impact, though. Those won’t happen until our legislators perceive there’s enough public support at the national level.

      “Until we lead, the politicians will not follow.. Actions matter.”

      True, so be an activist. Reduce your personal carbon footprint, but also do whatever’s required to get the attention of politicians. Lobby them directly, and in local and national media. Contribute to campaigns. Join advocacy organizations. Get your voice heard.

      • I think those who hold positions of trust and responsiblity on our behalf have a clear obligation to make decisions that reflect the abundent, consistent and persistent expert advice about damaging consequences and likely harms; for them to wilfully ignore that advice constitutes a breach of trust that can and should be seen as negligence.

        I think you are right–a point I’ve tried to make, repeatedly, to our local congresscritter.

    • Ken Fabian

      I would say the bottom up and top down approaches are so inextricably entwined that to claim either as the key ingredient must inevitably be misleading. But I must say that whilst ordinary individuals are entitled to believe whatever they want, I think those who hold positions of trust and responsiblity on our behalf have a clear obligation to make decisions that reflect the abundent, consistent and persistent expert advice about damaging consequences and likely harms; for them to wilfully ignore that advice constitutes a breach of trust that can and should be seen as negligence.

      • Bernard J.

        …for them to wilfully ignore that advice constitutes a breach of trust that can and should be seen as negligence

        This cannot be said enough. The frustrating thing is that despite many of us having said the same or similar, it has to date not made any impact (that I can discern) on the politicians that run many of the Western Anglophone nations.

      • I suspect that apart from the confusing of the public much of the true value of dissenting credentialed climate scientists is that it provides a reasonable seeming basis for ignoring expert advice, shoring up the “I’m not a climate scientist” and “the scientists disagree” excuses for failing to act. Ultimately this can be used as a legal defense against any future accusations of negligence. A neat means of responsibility avoidance much aided by a confused and divided public although I’m not sure it would survive actual court action.

        The distinction between taking action and avoiding action is also inverted in this, so that unceasing pumping out of emissions can be framed as “responsible” restraint by refraining from hasty and precipitous action.

        Precipitous… is a word that resonates in my thinking, but not the way those in the business of responsibility avoidance like to use it. I note that I use “act vs not act” in familiar fashion and am not sure it would be easy to change.

      • “The distinction between taking action and avoiding action is also inverted in this, so that unceasing pumping out of emissions can be framed as “responsible” restraint by refraining from hasty and precipitous action.”

        Yes. I’ve noticed that that is the framing used by some, as in this exchange I had:

        ‘Simplicio’: What I am warning is before we jump in with both feet, we need to understand the un-intended consequences of these actions.

        Me: Why should we start acting that way now, in particular? We didn’t do that with fossil fuel combustion, after all.

        S: The jet stream may change course, or the ocean flows such as the gulf stream…not to mention the harm to birds…

        Me: Funny you should say that. Anthropogenic warming is currently affecting the gulf stream:

        It may well also be affecting the jet stream:

        And coal plants are far deadlier to birds than are wind turbines:

        S: Even mainstream media are starting to question the climate change solution…

        Me: One researcher does not make a ‘they,’ so I really don’t see this as any kind of trend. But in any case, researchers have been questioning all along; that is how the scientific process works. So the ‘starting’ is, I think, also not really the case.

        S: I am not advocating for not solving this problem but just want to make sure we apply the right solution.”

        Me: I agree in principle, but we do not have the luxury of infinite amounts of time to bring a solution to bear.

        I keeping trying to chip away at that framing, but it’s about like chipping away at the political positions of my local congresscritter–frustratingly slow, as in “no visible change yet.”

  9. Kevin Stanley

    So what sort of action beyond diagnosis and urgent advising are you suggesting, uilyam?

  10. Leading Statisticians Establish Steps to Convey Statistics as a Science not a Recipe

    [0]fork(2) writes:
    [1] carries this story:

    Convinced that better use of data will improve research, innovation
    and literacy across other disciplines, six leading statisticians
    recently published “[2]Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical
    Practice” in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. Part of the
    popular open access “Ten Simple Rules (TSR)” series, this piece
    surpassed 51,000 views in only two weeks.

    Authors Nancy Reid, of the University of Toronto, Rob Kass of
    Carnegie Mellon University, Brian Caffo of Johns Hopkins University,
    Marie Davidian of North Carolina State University, Xiao-Li Meng of
    Harvard University, and Bin Yu of the University of California,
    Berkeley, advise practitioners to first “treat statistics as a
    science, not a recipe.”

    In furthering this point, the authors stressed the need for
    researchers across various fields of science to avoid misperceptions
    and inaccurate claims resulting from faulty statistical reasoning.
    Grappling with such subtle phenomena requires principled statistical
    analysis, affirm the authors, who encourage researchers to consider
    statistics “a language constructed to assist this process, with
    probability as its grammar.”

    […] Meng notes “sound statistical practices require a bit of
    science, engineering, and arts, and hence some general guidelines for
    helping practitioners to develop statistical insights and acumen are
    in order. No rules, simple or not, can be 100% applicable or
    foolproof, but that’s the very essence that I find this is a useful
    exercise. It reminds practitioners that good statistical practices
    require far more than running software or an algorithm.”

    [3]Here is a link to the “Ten Simple Rules” collection at PLOS.

    [4]Original Submission
    Discuss this story at:


  11. I’m sure that Congress is well aware of the threat surrounding fossil fuels. Any day now I expect Congress will pass a large funding package to assist Peabody and Murray Energy trade their way out of their Chapter 11s

    • Theoretically, of course, it shouldn’t happen, given the ‘free market’ ideology ostensibly driving most GOP legislators. I have little illusion that that’s as prophylactic of a Big Coal bailout as it should be, but at least the ‘optics’ would be pretty bad. Maybe someone will try to smuggle something as a rider into some unrelated legislation deep in the small hours of a marathon session? It wouldn’t be the first time.

    • Amazing how things fall together–or apart. Apparently, it’s not so much direct bailouts the taxpayer should worry about, as getting stuck with the land reclamation tab:

      Companies reorganizing under federal bankruptcy laws will continue to mine and market coal, hoping to shed mountains of debt and eventually emerge from bankruptcy. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to obtain conventional surety bonds after they reorganize, or whether bankruptcy courts will direct the companies to use their remaining assets to partially fulfill their self-bonding obligations.

      One thing is clear, however. Against the backdrop of a century of coal company bankruptcies and attendant environmental damage, regulators ignored a looming coal market collapse with a wink and a nod. Properly administered, SMCRA’s reclamation bonding requirements should have required secure financial guarantees collectible upon bankruptcy.

      Unfortunately, coal regulators viewed America’s leading coal companies like Wall Street’s mismanaged banks – too big to fail. As a result, American taxpayers may have to pick up an enormous reclamation tab for coal producers.