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National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth
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Why Others Care

The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Comprised of hundreds of scientists, the IPCC assesses and summarizes findings from peer-reviewed, published scientific/technical literature.

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For more information see the IPCC website. Off-site Link

The possibility that humans could actually influence Earth's climate is not a new idea. In 1896, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius speculated that the burning of fossil fuels would add carbon dioxide to Earth's atmosphere and potentially increase the planet's average temperature. Over the next century, research on this issue has continued. (For an excellent historical overview see: The American Institute of Physics, The Discovery of Global Warming Off-site Link) The overall concept of human-induced climate change however did not gain popular attention or acceptance until the turn of this century with the publication of the third assessment reports by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. See sidebar on IPCC.

The IPCC reports presented a scientific consensus on human-induced climate change and catalyzed attention at the US Government level. This report spawned many more including a November 2004 report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change entitled: Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the US Off-site Link. In response to this report, Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, stated,

“This is only the beginning. With warming for the next century projected to be two to ten times greater than the last, we're heading toward a fundamental and potentially irreversible disruption of the US landscape and wildlife... This is about all of us. This is about the cars we drive, the politicians we elect and how we choose to live our lives.”

Similarly, lawmakers like US Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), ranking minority member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are also now recognizing the urgency. During the 2004 Annual International Sustainability Days Conference at Stanford University, Senator Bingaman declared,

“We can't wait until the Arctic has melted or until the West is on fire before we seriously push for legislation on climate change. Our knowledge of the climate change issue is outpacing our actions to deal with it.”

Get more facts in What Do Experts Say? »

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