A report released Thursday by a National Research Council committee cites "the pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare to adapt to its impacts."
Since the effects of greenhouse gases can take decades to come about, and then persist for hundreds or even thousands of years, waiting for impacts to occur before taking action will likely be too late for meaningful mitigation, according to the report.
Beginning emissions reductions soon will also lower the pressure to make steeper and costlier cuts later. "It is our judgment that the most effective strategy is to begin ramping down emissions as soon as possible," said committee chair Albert Carnesale of UCLA.
Substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions should be among the nation's highest priorities, the committee said.
"America's response to climate change is ultimately about making choices in the face of risk," says committee vice chair William L. Chameides of Duke University.
The report, titled "America's Climate Choices," was commissioned by the U.S. Congress several years ago. It comes on the heels of a disastrous stretch of weather in the USA: The nation has been hit with five weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars each in 2011, setting a modern record for the most high-cost weather events so early in a year, according to insurance estimates and government records.
Is there a connection between these disasters and climate change?