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Geological Society of America Issues Revised Position Statement on Climate Change

The Geological Society of America issued a revised position statement on climate change noting the need to address the significant contribution of GHGs to global warming. The statement states that its purpose is to: “(1) summarizes the strengthened basis for the conclusion that humans are a major factor responsible for recent global warming; (2) describes the large effects on humans and ecosystems if greenhouse‐gas concentrations and global climate reach projected levels; and (3) provides information for policy decisions guiding mitigation and adaptation strategies designed to address the future impacts of anthropogenic warming.”

The projections contained in the statement present a sobering picture of the future if action is not taken. “If greenhouse‐gas emissions follow the current trajectory, by 2100 atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reach two to four times pre‐industrial levels, for a total warming of less than 2 C to more than 5 C compared to 1850. This range of changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature would substantially alter the functioning of the planet in many ways. The projected changes involve risk to humans and other species: (1) continued shrinking of Arctic sea ice with effects on native cultures and ice‐dependent biota; (2) less snow accumulation and earlier melt in mountains, with reductions in spring and summer runoff for agricultural and municipal water; (3) disappearance of mountain glaciers and their late summer runoff; (4) increased evaporation from farmland soils and stress on crops; (5) greater soil erosion due to increases in heavy convective summer rainfall; (6) longer fire seasons and increases in fire frequency; (7) severe insect outbreaks in vulnerable forests; (8) acidification of the global ocean; and (9) fundamental changes in the composition, functioning, and biodiversity of many terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In addition, melting of Greenland and West Antarctic ice (still highly uncertain as to amount), along with thermal expansion of seawater and melting of mountain glaciers and small ice caps, will cause substantial future sea‐level rise along densely populated coastal regions, inundating farmland and dislocating large populations.”

-Steven Silverberg