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By Janet Napolitano
The science is indisputable: Our climate is changing, the planet is warming and sea levels are rising. Weather patterns are shifting, at times exacting a punishing toll on communities. More and more, taxpayers are footing the bill for the havoc wreaked by powerful floods, wildfires and storms made worse by climate change.
With a new administration in Washington, D.C., the future direction of our nation’s climate strategy is cloudy, and the potential implications for our communities, the environment and our economy are profound. Now more than ever, each of us has a critical role to play in charting our path forward.
We cannot afford to be silent. Climate change is a global threat that demands more of our attention, not less.
Scientists and research universities have a responsibility to keep climate change in the public conscience. We must continue talking about it. We must continue research that provides scientific data to guide our climate strategy. We must doggedly hunt for solutions.
For centuries, science and evidence-based research have served us well, shining a light on the truth and providing a sound foundation on which vast improvements to our quality of life have been forged. Innovations in everything from medicine to space exploration to information technology have been built upon scientific research.
Consider Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientist Art Rosenfeld, who died last month but whose legacy lives on in his groundbreaking research that gave us energy-efficient refrigerators and windows that trap heat, saving homeowners and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs.
Or consider UC San Diego physicist Veerabhadran Ramanathan’s discovery of the greenhouse effect of halocarbons in 1975 and his accurate prediction of global warming. Last year, he marshaled the work of scientists across the UC system to formulate 10 solutions to counter the effects of climate change; his research and advocacy led California to enact new restrictions on emissions of certain pollutants, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and black carbon, to slow the pace of global warming.
At the University of California, we’re not slowing down. We’re attacking climate change across multiple fronts:
If it goes unaddressed, climate change has the potential to unleash massive economic, environmental and societal ramifications on how and where we live. It is our responsibility as leaders, as academics, as scientists, as human beings, to act swiftly and decisively to protect the planet we call home. Future generations are counting on us.