UC Berkeley professor co-authors report on climate change for general public

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A report jointly released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in the United Kingdom aims to make climate change an easily digestible subject for even the novice reader.

Authored in part by UC Berkeley professor of atmospheric science Inez Fung, the report takes information currently known about climate change — including the rising temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, as well as its melting sea ice, rising sea level and other climate-related changes — and simplifies the issue to allow a wider array of people to fully comprehend the complicated subject.

The 36-page document contains 20 comprehensive questions regarding climate change, such as “Why is climate change of concern now?,” with short-paragraph answers explaining the problems and high-resolution graphics for other researchers to reuse in their own reports.

“We present the evidence for climate change, and we explain that the climate change we see now is because of human activities,” Fung said. “It is designed to be a very succinct guide to climate science. You don’t have to wade through 1,000 pages to get to what we’re talking about.”

Work on the project began in June. Since then, a team of 12 authors from both the United States and the United Kingdom communicated through multiple phone conferences about what should be in the report, drafted questions and answers, submitted the report for review by another circle of scientists and finally had it approved by the Council of the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences Council.

“It draws a pretty comprehensive picture of climate change … synthesized into a couple of nicely digestible morsels that the average informed citizen can understand,” said Maximilian Auffhammer, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley who was not part of the project.

Although climate change has been a growing problem over the last decade, there is still a fair share of people who do not recognize it as an issue, which is what inspired the researchers to compile the report, said Eric Wolff, a Royal Society research professor and one of the leaders of the project, in an email.

Still, while the report is meant to bring awareness to the current state of climate change and to encourage people to be aware of their carbon footprints, it is too late for the rising temperature to be stopped altogether, Fung said.

According to Fung, even if carbon dioxide emission is completely halted, the Earth’s oceans, which absorb the carbon dioxide, cannot filter it at a fast enough rate, and the gas will continue to linger for thousands of years.

“We put it out now because we feel an urgency in dealing with it,” Fung said. “This is opening the dialogue. We really hope that this book has all the critical information people need.”

Contact Chris Tril at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ctril.