by Richard Harris
December 03, 2013
An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.
The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren’t doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.
And this is not a matter for some distant future. The Earth is already experiencing both gradual and abrupt climate change. The air is warming up slowly, and we’re also seeing rapid changes such as the melting Arctic ice cap.
Anthony Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, says abrupt change is the bigger worry.
“When you think about gradual changes you can kind of see where the road is and know where you’re going,” Barnosky said at a news conference unveiling the report Tuesday. “When you think about abrupt changes and threshold effects, the road suddenly drops out from under you. And it’s those kinds of things we’re suggesting we need to anticipate in a much more comprehensive way.”