Climate change has increased concern over possible changes in Earth’s physical climate system, including its atmosphere, land surfaces, and oceans. Some of these changes could occur abruptly—within a few decades or even years—leaving little time for society and ecosystems to adapt. In a new report, an expert panel assembled by the National Research Council summarizes the current state of knowledge about abrupt climate change. The report also draws attention to evidence that even non-abrupt climate changes could cause abrupt impacts, such as effects on infrastructure and ecosystems, if critical thresholds are crossed.
The report calls for the development of an early warning system that could help society better anticipate sudden changes and emerging impacts.
The Koshland Science Museum’s Earth Lab offers a wealth of information about the causes and impacts of climate change based on expert reports from the National Academies. Explore the Earth Lab in person or online; classroom-ready modules are also available free of charge on our Teacher Resources page.