MIT's Kerry Emanuel on What We Know About Climate Change

| MIT Climate Change Blog
February 15, 2015

The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity has significantly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere--most dramatically since the 1970s. Yet global warming skeptics and ill-informed elected officials continue to dismiss this broad scientific consensus. 

In a new edition of his authoritative book, MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel and member of MIT's Climate Change Conversation Committee, outlines the basic science of global warming and how the current consensus has emerged. Prof. Emanuel also covers two major developments that have occurred since the first edition: the most recent round of updated projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate simulations, and the so-called “climategate” incident that heralded the subsequent collapse of popular and political support in the United States for dealing with climate change.

The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity has significantly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—most dramatically since the 1970s. In February 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming is "unequivocal" and that human-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are chiefly to blame, to a certainty of more than 90 percent. Yet global warming skeptics and ill-informed elected officials continue to dismiss this broad scientific consensus. In What We Know About Climate Change,  Dr. Emanuel argues that although it is impossible to predict exactly when the most dramatic effects of global warming will be felt, we can be confident that we face real dangers. Dr. Emanuel, whose work was widely cited in media coverage of Hurricane Katrina, warns that global warming will contribute to an increase in the intensity and power of hurricanes and flooding and more rapidly advancing deserts.
But just as our actions have created the looming crisis, so too might they avert it. In this book, Prof. Emanuel questions the media's role in playing down the dangers of global warming (and, in search of "balance," quoting extremists who deny its existence). As a political conservative, Dr. Emanuel brings importnat insights and a fresh outlook to how the United States could lead the way in the policy changes required to deal with global warming. In a measured, yet authoritative voice, Prof. Emanuel puts forth the framework to help reduce the gap between what is understood by the scientific community, and what the public and policymakers need to know. 
Dr. Emanuel is Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science at MIT, and is the author of Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes and Atmospheric Convection. In May 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's “Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”