Op-Ed: With climate change, we may witness sequoia forests convert to chaparral and scrub
I’m a scientist, and I know firsthand what it’s like to navigate the science world. My career began in environmental management at the Colorado Forest Service. Now, 20 years later, I’m heading up the Rocky Mountain Ecological Observatory, a consortium of scientists and land managers developing a regional climate change model at the University of Colorado — one that could help decision-makers like state and federal government, cities and private landowners make sense of the impacts of climate change on their properties.
I’m writing about these exciting new developments because I believe that we are at the tipping point of the planet’s climate. The world will soon face the real possibility of tipping points, and what happens there will affect the rest of our lives.
A Climate of Uncertainty
But my life is not in the “real world.” I’ve spent the last five years writing science and policy papers for the National Academies’ Committee on Climate Change: a group of distinguished scientists and scholars who make policy recommendations for the United States. My first three papers were published in the last couple years. In January, we published a fourth report, “A More Secure World: Adaptation to and Resilience from Climate Change,” which examined the scientific evidence that future climate changes are already underway and will have major, dangerous impacts on our lives.
As scientists, we can talk about science. We can talk about climate science, and we can argue about the facts. But, it’s pretty hard to talk about uncertainty.
What we can see in the field is a large climate change experiment underway, but the question is whether the experiment is being conducted with rigorous scientific scrutiny. And, it’s not just the scientific questions that are uncertain: it’s also how humanity responds to and adapts to climate change.
The climate is changing, and we’re seeing the changes. But it’s not so clear how the climate will respond to future changes.
The National Academies of Sciences is not the only body that makes policy recommendations on climate science. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the lead