Climate Change Impacts

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Science  02 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6145, pp. 435
DOI: 10.1126/science.1243256

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Anticipating the future under the influence of climate change is one of the most important challenges of our time, and the topic of the special section in this issue of Science (see p. 472). The natural systems that provide oxygen, clean water, food, storm and erosion protection, natural products, and the potential for future resources, such as new genetic stocks for cultivation, must be protected, not just because it is part of good stewardship but also so that they can take care of us. But even the first step of modeling the effects of greenhouse gas sources and sinks on future temperatures requires input from atmospheric scientists, oceanographers, ecologists, economists, policy analysts, and others. The problem is even more difficult because the very factors that influence temperature changes, such as ocean circulation and terrestrial ecosystem responses, will themselves be altered as the climate changes.With so many potential climate-sensitive factors to consider, scientists need ways to narrow down the range of possible environmental outcomes so that they know what specific problems to tackle.