‘What We Know’ aims to be ongoing drumbeat toward addressing climate change

Sarah FrazierClimate, Original, Quick Looks

A new climate report website aims to reinforce the facts of climate change and encourage discussion about the best steps to address it.

Image Credit: AAAS.

Image Credit: AAAS.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has launched a new public outreach effort about climate change called What We Know.

The report, with information from a panel of climate scientists from a variety of universities and institutions, aims to promote the “three R’s” of climate change:

“The first is Reality — about 97 percent of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.

The second is Risk — that the reality of climate change means that there are climate change impacts we can expect, but we also must consider what might happen, especially the small, but real, chance that we may face abrupt changes with massively disruptive impacts.

The third R is Response — that there is much we can do and that the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.”

To promote public awareness and understanding of these issues, What We Know combines a thorough background document with video testimonials from climate scientists on a variety of topics.

One video, by Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, covers more basic questions about climate change. For instance, how do we know climate change is human-caused? The short answer: By examining climate data, scientists have eliminated other possible causes of climate change.

Another video, by Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University, discusses the importance of addressing climate change in a timely fashion.

“Each degree of warming costs more than the previous one,” Alley says in his video.

AAAS CEO Alan Leshner says he hopes What We Know will spark a discussion on the proper reaction to climate change.

“We don’t need to debate whether the climate is changing anymore. Now, what would be a success for this initiative is to have the debate shift … from whether the climate is changing to what’s the best way to react to it.”
Ginger Pinholster, director of the Office of Public Programs for AAAS, says that the initiative is meant to be accessible to all, but that certain groups are in focus. “We’ve taken special steps to reach out to policymakers,” Pinholster said in an interview with Earthzine. “We’ll be doing briefings on Capitol Hill.”

Within a few days of the report’s publication on March 17, What We Know had almost 56,000 unique visitors.

The AAAS report was intentionally timed to fall between the 2013 National Academies report, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, and the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expected later this year.

“The idea is for (What We Know) to be an ongoing drumbeat to reinforce the message about global climate change,” Pinholster said.