MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
NPR's Christopher Joyce reports on the two-year research effort behind today's announcement.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: Today, though, it was Robert Fri, an M.B.A. and energy analyst at the economic think tank Resources for the Future, who summed up the NRC panel's view on climate change.
NORRIS: A principal conclusion of our report is that the country needs both a prompt and a sustained national commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
JOYCE: Although the report leaves the decision-making to politicians, it does get more prescriptive than previous academy climate studies. For example, it states that the annual emissions from American factories, power plants, cars, agriculture and the like - it's about seven billion tons of greenhouse gases - must be cut at least a third. The report says total emissions over the next 40 years should not exceed 200 billion tons.
NORRIS: How hard is it to do the job? Well, it turns out, meeting that emissions budget is a very challenging task.
JOYCE: One, says Fri, that will require a price on carbon emissions as well as inventing technologies that don't even exist yet. What does exist now is scientific evidence of warming. But earth scientist Pam Matson from Stanford University, who led the report section on the state of the science, says measuring what's happening now isn't enough anymore.
JOYCE: The scientific community would say this is a core fact, basically, that climate is changing. We also have a lot more lines of evidence now indicating that humans are in large part the reason that that increase in temperature is occurring. What we haven't done as much of is focus our attention on what to do about that.
JOYCE: The report says scientists need to spend more time figuring out what's going to change. For example, how will higher temperatures affect agriculture? And where and when? Matson says that's a moving target and it's largely guided by how much fossil energy people will be using.
JOYCE: There are a lot of uncertainties about the future and the uncertainties are in large part because we don't know what people are going to do.
JOYCE: And what people do, Matson adds, may depend on how well scientists explain what they know.
JOYCE: We miscommunicate all the time. For example, we use the term uncertainty all the time in science. It represents a quantitative statement of how well we know something. But think of what uncertainty means for most people - it means we don't know.
JOYCE: Christopher Joyce, NPR News.
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