The Changing Climate On Climate Change

The message, it seems, has finally gotten through: global warming represents a serious threat to our planet. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, world leaders saw climate change, for the first time, topping the list of global concerns.

Europe and Japan have shown their commitment to reduce global warming by imposing costs on themselves and their producers, even if it places them at a competitive disadvantage. The biggest obstacle until now has been the United States. The Clinton administration had called for bold action as far back as 1993, proposing what was in effect a tax on carbon emissions; but an alliance of polluters, led by the coal, oil, and auto industries beat back this initiative.

To the scientific community, the evidence on climate change has, of course, been overwhelming for more than a decade and a half. I participated in the second assessment of the scientific evidence conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which perhaps made one critical mistake: it underestimated the pace at which global warming was occurring. The Fourth Assessment, which was just issued, confirms the mounting evidence and the increasing conviction that global warming is the result of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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