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Statement on Climate Change in the 21st Century

Adopted by Biophysical Society Council on February 15, 2017

Adopted by Biophysical Society Council on February 15, 2017

Global climate change is threatening to disrupt all life on our planet. This global climate change is a result of global warming. Global warming is measured by the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic, by ocean temperature, and an average of air temperature data collected throughout the world. 
The effects of global warming can be seen in the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. Perhaps more subtle are changes in flora and fauna. On land, there is a migration of flora and fauna towards the poles as the temperature at the equator increases. Agriculture and fisheries, the major components of the world food supply, depend on the existing climate. Climate change has already caused regional crop failures, and threatens the global food supply. In the oceans, corals are bleaching and aquatic life is migrating away from the tropics. NASA reports that 2014, 2015, and 2016 are the three hottest years since recording began in 1880. 

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases that trap radiant heat in the atmosphere and also reflect it back to earth. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas. The primary source of CO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal. Years 2014, 2015, and 2016 coincide with levels of CO2 in the atmosphere that have not been seen for at least 850,000 years. 

More recently, methane has begun to rival CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Methane is 82 times more efficient than CO2 at trapping heat from the earth in the short term. Natural sources of methane are wetlands, but unregulated methane release occurs during natural gas production. There is a vast methane pool beneath the Arctic permafrost; in Siberia, as the permafrost melts, explosive release of methane has formed huge craters.

The Biophysical Society acknowledges the conclusion of years of scientific research into the cause and effect of climate change: Human activity is responsible for the rapid global warming that is now occurring on earth. 

Human activity is necessary to halt global warming. The 2016 Paris Accord (COP 21) is an acknowledgement of the urgency of global action to limit earth warming to 2° C. It is a commitment by 196 countries to individual actions to meet this goal. It went into effect on November 4, 2016.

All life on Earth is entitled to clean air and clean water and a safe environment. The Biophysical Society supports and advocates policies that move the world to halt global warming, to eliminate fossil fuels and promote renewable energy sources, and that recognize environmental justice for all people. 

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