APS News

APS to Review Statement on Climate Change

A subcommittee of POPA is reviewing the APS statement on climate change in accordance with the policy to review official statements every five years.

February 20, 2014

Preparations are under way by the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) to review and possibly update the society’s statement on climate change. In the coming months, the APS membership will have a chance to weigh in on any proposed revisions before the society adopts a final draft.

“We intend to keep the membership informed at every stage in this process,” said Robert Jaffe a physicist at MIT and Chair of POPA. “We’re quite eager to make sure that the revision of the climate change statement is done in the most open and orderly way.”

The subcommittee of POPA that is conducting the review posted its background and research materials to the APS website, along with its charge. The research materials include the transcripts of the subcommittee’s January workshop, biographical information on outside climate experts who participated in the workshop, and their slide presentations. These materials are now available online.

The standing policy of the society is to review its statements every five years. The society first adopted the climate change statement seven years ago, but appended an addendum in 2010. The review also coincides with the release of the latest report on the physical science basis of climate change from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The months-long process started last year with the formation of the subcommittee and a steering committee,  which is guiding the statement review subcommittee through the review process. In addition to weighing the opinions of experts from its workshop, the review subcommittee is researching information related to climate change and reviewing the roughly 1,500-page climate change report by the IPCC. 

If a new statement is drafted, it will be submitted to the full POPA committee in June. Once approved by POPA, it will go to the APS executive board for a vote. If approved there, the proposed statement will be posted on the society’s website for members to read and comment on, likely sometime later in 2014.

Once all of the comments have been collected, POPA will again review the statement and may revise it further based on members’ input. It will then go to the executive board and the full council for a vote on whether the statement should be officially adopted in its final form. 

“We’re not rushing this. Climate science and climate change will be around a long time and we want to get this right before sending it out to the membership for review and comment,” Jaffe said.