If Republicans win control of the US Senate this November, widely considered within the realm of the possible if not the probable, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe believes he will once again lead the Environment and Public Works Committee, now chaired by Democrat Barbara Boxer [Unlink] of California.

That would be a huge setback for the scientific voice on Capitol Hill when it comes to policies relating to climate change. Inhofe, unlike Boxer and 97 percent of climate experts, does not believe climate change is related to human activity. Inhofe has characterized “man-made global warming” as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Without directly attempting to discredit Inhofe and those who believe as he does, the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched its “What We Know” initiative Tuesday in hopes of emphasizing the scientific consensus is on climate change issues and expanding the dialogue on the risks associated with climate change.

"We"re the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one," said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. "As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue."

According to a news release on the AAAS site, the What We Know report provides three key climate change messages for all Americans:

  • Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
  • We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
  • The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

The header atop the eye-opening AAAS What We Know website cuts to the chase, spelling out the scientific consensus in no uncertain terms: “Based on the evidence, more than 97 percent of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

The site explains that “surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement” and that it “is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.”

The website also features short videos with several top scientists emphasizing that climate change is indeed a real problem and that just as human activity contributed to the problem, taking action now can help lessen the impact in the future.

“We don’t need to debate if the climate is changing anymore,” Leshner said.Now, what would be a success for this initiative is to have the debate shift. To have the debate shift from whether the climate is changing, to what’s the best way to react to it.”

Katherine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, made it clear that the time to act is now. “I’m an optimist by nature,” she said, “but the more time that passes without doing anything enormously large to solve this problem, the more concerned I get. The further down the path we go, the more effort that’s required.”

In “The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change,” a background piece found on the What We Know website, the AAAS emphasizes its responsibility to educate the public on the scientific consensus on climate change:

As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change. But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.

Regardless of one’s political views, the scientific consensus is always worth considering. The AAAS is doing the public a great service with its What We Know initiative. It would be encouraging to see Inhofe, Boxer and other legislators sit down with scientists involved with the project and actually make an honest effort to base US policies on the best scientific data, not ideologically driven politics.

Additional sources and resources: s/16732630-obama-advances-climate-change -agenda-with-launch-of-public-data-porta l /2014/03/20/what_we_know_aaas_campaign_t o_raise_public_awareness_of_global_warmi ng.html