Climate change Qs & As

ouse gas effects are not going to be masked by aerosols," Penner said, debunking a popular myth related to climate change. "But in the short term, we have a problem predicting what aerosols do to the climate. The best current aerosol models give a cooling force, which is larger than we can explain. This must be balanced by other effects that are not properly accounted for in climate models. But eventually, warming caused by greenhouse gases will overwhelm any aerosol-related cooling."

Many scientific questions about climate change remain, Kennedy acknowledged, but policymakers and the public must take action now.

"We're in the middle of a large, uncontrolled experiment on the only planet we have," Kennedy said, reiterating comments set forth in an editorial published 11 June in Science. "It's only natural that there is lively disagreement among scientists about what the future may hold," he added, referring to uncertainties associated with physical climate-change models, which were the focus of the AAAS conference. "Unfortunately, these disagreements have often persuaded thoughtful newspaper readers that since the scientists can't agree, the issue can safely be ignored."

Continued warming is expected to dramatically increase flooding, affecting communities and economies around the world, King and others have reported. Consequently, "millions more people around the world may in future be exposed to the risk of hunger, drought, flooding, and debilitating diseases such as malaria," King noted, citing the U.K.'s Flood and Coastal Defences Report. "Poor people in developing countries are likely to be most vulnerable." Stabilizing carbon dioxide levels at around 550 parts per million by 2100 "could reduce flooding frequency by some 80 to 90 percent along the most vulnerable parts of the Indian and Bangladesh coastlines," King said.

Alan I. Leshner, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of Science, will join Science Editor-in

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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