Sustainable development, over coming generations, is confronted with formidable obstacles. The world's fundamental problem is the dramatic increase in population and the concurrent need for more energy to support desired standards of living. We have been largely unaware of the great increase in atmospheric greenhouse gasses over the last 150 years, almost entirely due to the burning of fossil fuels. We are now attempting to control emissions but these gasses continue to accumulate and threaten the functions of present natural systems.
Global climate change is a direct result of this accumulation of gasses and is now officially recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as human- influenced and in need of coordinated global strategies to mitigate or adapt to likely effects. The IPCC, sponsored by the World Meteorological Association and the United Nations Environment Programme, based its findings on the work of 9,000 scientists from around the world.
Because more energy is being trapped on our planet, threats to our society can be anticipated in the form of impacts on agricultural production, increased frequency and intensity of storms, sea level rise, loss of biological diversity and human health problems.
This book contains papers, written by some of the world's most eminent scientists in the field of climate change phenomena, presented at a conference held in Washington, D.C., December 4 & 5, 1995. The conference was part of an annual series sponsored by the Center for Environmental Information in Rochester, N.Y., publisher of the GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DIGEST, and cosponsored by thirty-five professional, academic, environmental, and business organizations and governmental agencies.
The conference papers begin with descriptions of new findings in the current IPCC assessment and their implications for sustainable development. Other papers examine mechanisms for assessing the linkages and the conflicts between sustainable development strategies and emerging findings about impacts, adaptation and mitigation of global climate change effects.
We thank the members of the program steering committee for the selection of topics and the excellent recommendations for speakers. We were especially fortunate to be able to schedule Dr. Bert Bolin, Chairman of the IPCC, as the keynote speaker.
Special thanks are due to the associate editor, William Wagner for patience and consideration shown the editor during the preparation of this manuscript. Wendy Petry, CEI's conference manager, did a stellar job in coordinating the many aspects of conference arrangements and presentations in conjunction with CEI staff and volunteers.
We hope this book, which is being distributed on the Internet under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, will be widely used and of value to those concerned with the problems associated with global climate change.
James C. White
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