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This article is from the In-Depth Report The Future of Climate Change
60-Second Earth

America's Climate Choices Are Narrowing

With every year of inaction the risks posed by climate change grow, according to a new report requested by Congress. David Biello reports

In 1959 physicist Gilbert Plass warned in Scientific American that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was causing climate change. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson warned Congress of the risk. In 1979 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences warned against a wait-and-see attitude (pdf).

But we have waited. And now most of us see. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are changing the climate. And a new report from the U.S. National Research Council argues—again—that we urgently need a national approach to reducing that pollution since its impacts will be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years.

One possibility is to make polluters pay for the cost of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a tax on fossil fuel burned would spur investment in cleaner energy technologies, such as renewables or nuclear power.

Other nations will also have to reduce such pollution. But this latest report suggests that if the U.S. reduces its emissions, we're in a better position to influence others, such as China, to do the same. One thing remains clear—the time for waiting is over.

—David Biello

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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