On 20th Anniversary of Key Global Warming Report, Yale Symposium to Examine Future Trends

The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies is hosting a symposium on Friday, November 12 to mark the 20th anniversary of a watershed climate report by the National Academy of Sciences that first identified the human contribution to global warming.

The event will feature one of the world’s premier atmospheric scientists detailing projections for the climate if efforts are not made now to cut greenhouse pollution within the next 20 years.

There will be a special press briefing at 9:15 a.m. with James Gustave Speth, dean of the forestry school, Jerry D. Mahlman, director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University, and Yale Professor Thomas Graedel of the forestry school. It will be held in Yale’s Luce Hall, Room 202, 34 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven. The symposium begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Luce Hall auditorium.

Published two decades ago by the Academy’s National Science Council, the Charney Report concluded, “We now have incontrovertible evidence that the atmosphere is indeed changing and that we ourselves contribute to that change … These changes are linked to man’s use of fossil fuels and exploitation of the land.” The startling findings appeared a full 15 years before the famous climate report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“The report was released when the science was much less sophisticated than it has become since,” said Graedel. “Thebasic conclusions in the Charney Report are very close to the predictions that are given by much-improved models today. Unlike many reports that soon disappear into the dust of history, this one was exactly right and continues to be an inspiration for a whole host of studies in this area.”

The main symposium speaker will be Mahlman of Princeton University. “It takes a long time to get this process of human-caused climate warming cranked up, but it will incontestably take a lot longer to get out of,” he said. The IPCC predicts the climate will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century. Sea levels are expected to rise one to three feet as a result, and major agricultural regions will experience severe weather and hydrological changes.

Experts in the field say these effects assume that we can limit carbon dioxide concentrations to twice pre-industrial levels. Unless significant steps are taken to cut emissions in the next 10 to 20 years, experts say, we are likely to see even greater impacts.

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