American Geophysical Union Releases Revised Position Statement on Climate Change

Statement Highlights How Human Activities Are Changing Earth’s Climate and the Harmful Impact of that Change on Society

5 August 2013

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Geophysical Union today released a revised version of its position statement on climate change. Titled “Human-induced Climate Change Requires Urgent Action,” the statement declares that “humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years” and that ”rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes.” AGU develops position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to Earth and space science. These statements are limited to positions that are within the range of available geophysical data or norms of legitimate scientific debate.

”AGU has a responsibility to help policy makers and the public understand the impacts our science can have on public health and safety, economic stability and growth, and national security,” said Gerald North, chair of AGU’s Climate Change Position Statement Review Panel. ”Because our understanding of climate change and its impacts on the world around us has advanced so significantly in the last few years, it was vitally important that AGU update its position statement. The new statement is more reflective of the current state of scientific knowledge. It also calls greater attention to the specific societal impacts we face and actions that can diminish the threat.”

AGU’s position statements are renewed every 4 years. The climate change position statement was first adopted in December 2003. It was then revised and reaffirmed in December 2007, and again in February 2012.

AGU’s Position Statement Task Force reviews each statement to determine if it should be renewed as is, modified, or eliminated. In March 2012, the Task Force determined that the climate change position statement would require updating prior to renewal.

With input from AGU’s Council, relevant section and focus group leadership, the Position Statement Task Force, and staff, a panel of experts was subsequently formed to review the statement and make any necessary modifications. A draft of the updated statement was printed in Eos in November 2012, and all AGU members were encouraged to submit comments. After further revisions by the review panel based on the comments received, the statement was then adopted by the AGU Council in June 2013 and by the AGU Board in August 2013.

The newly approved statement will be reported to the AGU membership in the 20 August 2013 issue of Eos, the source of record for all AGU proceedings.

The 14-person panel that reviewed and updated the position statement included the following:

  • Amy Clement, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami (approve)
  • John Farrington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (approve)
  • Susan Joy Hassol, Climate Communication (approve)
  • Robert Hirsch, U.S. Geological Survey (approve)
  • Peter Huybers, Harvard University (approve)
  • Peter Lemke, Alfred Wegener Institute (approve)
  • Gerald North, Texas A&M University (approve, panel chair)
  • Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University (approve)
  • Roger Pielke Sr., University of Colorado Boulder (dissent)
  • Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (approve)
  • Gavin Schmidt, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA (approve)
  • Leonard A. Smith, London School of Economics (approve)
  • Eric Sundquist, U.S. Geological Survey (approve)
  • Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (approve)

Learn more about the revised statement, the previous statement, and all AGU position statements.

Notes for Journalists: Carol Finn, AGU president, and/or Margaret Leinen, AGU president-elect, and Gerald North, chair of the Position Statement Review Panel, will be available for comment. Members of the press should contact Joan Buhrman to schedule an interview.

The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 144 countries. Join our conversation on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and other social media channels.