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Report urges policymakers to ignore long-term climate change threats and focus on 'abrupt' changes instead

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Climate scientists are warning that the discussion must now move from if climate change is happening and if humans are the cause, to actually adapting and preparing for the impacts of said change. A report from the National Research Council suggests the time is now to make changes.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The report from the National Research Council affirms that climate change is real and that humans are the driving cause, citing rapid sea ice loss over the past decade and increased extinction pressure on plants and animals as evidence.

The Council is an advisory board that will help policymakers in Washington to craft plans to actually deal with the challenge at hand.

The report pointed out that some threats were immediate, others were likely to be near-term, but other, more popularly cited threats were also concluded to be fairly long-term, and unworthy of immediate concern.

Those long term threats that we can go to sleep without worrying much about include shifting of ocean currents and the mass-release of methane trapped in the Arctic tundra.

This doesn't mean we can be complacent about the whole thing, however. The report indicates that these are threats, they're just not threats most of us will live to grapple with.

In the meantime, the extinction of species and the swift decline of sea ice, which can impact the climate, were more significant concerns.

In the United States, perhaps more than in other places, debate seems to concentrate on whether or not climate change is happening at all. The consensus view, even among skeptics, is that it is happening. At the same time, Americans are obsessed with the blame. Is it nature, or humans?

Scientists have repeatedly pointed out that the current pace of climate change is more rapid than other climate shifts in the historical record. The key factor between now and prehistoric climate shifts seems to be human activity.

Every climate shift results in the extinction of some organisms while most organisms adapt, but the present day shift in climate appears to be so rapid that species may not be able to adapt-a process which can take hundreds to thousands of years in small animals, longer for larger creatures.

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Despite the likely extinction of several species and shifts in climate, which will result in some places becoming drier and other wetter, the overall net impact to humans may actually be negligible, at least in the short term. t is unlikely that global climate change in itself could cause the demise of humanity, however it could significantly upset the status quo in important ways. For example, the loss of water or farmland in one region could spark resource wars which especially in the modern age have the potential to overflow borders.

By identifying the immediate threats, the current report can be used to guide effective policy implementation at the national level. Whether or not that happens depends mostly on the national conversation, and if we can get away from discussing blame to discussing adaptation.

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