February 20, 2007
Global Warming Scientist Is Encouraged
SAN FRANCISCO -- A top scientist in the study of climate change says she is optimistic about public understanding of the dangers of global warming.
"I'm incredibly encouraged," Susan Solomon beamed after speaking to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Solomon, a scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was instrumental in developing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released earlier this month in Paris.
That report reaffirmed ongoing global warming, said it is 90 percent likely to have been caused by human activity and added changes in rain and snowfall to the hotter climate expected with continuing change.
"Evidence of climate change is now unequivocal," she said.
Changes already under way will require adaptation in the short term, Solomon said, while efforts to reduce or reverse change will only occur on a long term.
"I am personally an optimist" about increased governmental and public understanding of the problem, Solomon said.
But, she added, "It is complicated. You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it."
She likened understanding of global warming to that of the ozone hole a few years ago. Once scientists were able to tell the story clearly, the public understood it, she said. Now science is on the same track with climate change.
Global warming has seen the planet's average temperature rise by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century, largely due to the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
"We are forcing the climate system in a new way, outstripping the sun," Solomon said.
Overall there are more warm nights and fewer cold ones, a change that affects crops and animals as well as people.
Detecting change can be difficult in one place, she said, because local changes one way or the other can vary widely from the average changes around the world.
"It requires you to think beyond your own backyard," she said.
Solomon discussed the climate change reported so far, noting that further studies due out in the spring will address the effects of the change and what actions could be taken to reduce those effects or slow or reverse change.
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