POPA Ready to Hear from APS Membership on Climate Change Statement

By Tawanda W. Johnson, APS Press Secretary

During the week of April 6, APS members were sent an email with a link to a member website with the draft Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate. The site enables every APS member to comment on the draft. APS members can also access the statement via the following link (http://apps3.aps.org/statements/statement.cfm) by using their APS Web username and password. The statement is not published in this article because it is not a public position of APS, and comments are only being collected via the APS website.

The draft statement is the result of a deliberative review of the APS Climate Change Statement. The Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), which developed the draft statement, is eager to receive input from the Society’s membership.

“We have taken great care throughout this process, including focusing on consensus building that has resulted in a solid, science-based statement,” said William Barletta, POPA chair. “We now look forward to hearing from the Society’s membership.”

POPA began reviewing the APS Climate Change Statement and Climate Change Commentary in fall 2013, in accordance with APS policy that requires statements to be formally reviewed every five years. POPA then proposed a subcommittee to initiate the review, and the APS Board approved the charge to the Review Subcommittee.

As part of the process, the Review Subcommittee convened a workshop on Jan. 8, 2014, with six climate experts. “We used this meeting to delve deeply into aspects of the IPCC consensus view of the physical basis of climate science,” said Barletta. “The Review Subcommittee’s goal was to illuminate for itself, for the APS membership, and for the broader public both the certainties and boundaries of the current climate science understanding.” The Review Subcommittee presented the results of the workshop during the Feb. 7, 2014 POPA meeting.

At POPA’s meeting the following June 6, its Energy and Environment Subcommittee presented an initial draft of a new statement. POPA then began the process of finalizing a draft for consideration by the APS Board and Council. On Oct. 10, POPA reported out a draft of the statement.

The APS Council reviewed the statement in November. On Feb. 21, 2015, the Board voted unanimously to forward the statement to the APS membership. “APS members currently have the opportunity to ask questions about the process and submit comments about the statement. POPA will also update an online FAQ that members can access via the APS website,” said Barletta.

If you have questions about the process by which the statement was developed, you can submit them to: statements@aps.org. Although there will not be an opportunity to respond to every question individually, a list of Frequently Asked Questions will be updated on a regular basis and can be found via the Climate Change Statement Review page along with additional resource material. The last opportunity to submit questions will be on April 29; the last update of the FAQs is scheduled for May 1. The member comment period will close on May 6. Every APS member will have one opportunity to comment, and submissions are final. All the APS member comments will be reviewed by POPA, and the statement may be modified accordingly. The draft statement will then be presented to the Board and Council for discussion. If approved by the Council, the statement will become the official position of the APS.

Earth's Changing Climate FAQs

Q: Why is APS revising its climate change statement?

A: The American Physical Society (APS) formally reviews its statements every five years. The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) formed a subcommittee in fall 2013 to review its 2007 Climate Change Statement and 2010 Climate Change Commentary. After reviewing the statement, commentary and recent scientific reports, POPA developed a single, concise statement on Earth’s Changing Climate.

Q: Who wrote the statement?

A: The entire APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) membership was engaged in drafting the statement. The panel’s membership as well as the charge to POPA and resource documents can be found on the APS Climate Change Statement review website.

Q: What was the process to revise the statement?

A: A detailed description of the process is included in APS News and posted on the APS Climate Change Statement review website.  Briefly, the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) adhered to the process outlined in the APS by-laws, starting with a standard review of the APS Climate Change Statement and Climate Change Commentary. Then, a POPA subcommittee convened a workshop to inform itself on aspects of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consensus view of the physical basis of climate science. That was followed by the drafting of a single, concise statement that was reviewed by POPA and the APS Council. The APS Board unanimously voted to send it to the membership for comment on Feb. 21, 2015.

Q: How does this draft statement compare to the 2007 statement and 2010 commentary?

A: In this draft statement on Earth’s Changing Climate, APS “reiterates” its 2007 statement in stating that: the climate is changing, humans are contributing to climate change, and rising concentrations of greenhouse gases pose the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While there remain scientific challenges to our ability to observe, interpret and project climate change, APS continues to support actions — as it did in the 2007 statement — that reduce greenhouse gases and increase the resilience of society to climate change. A primary change is that the draft is succinct and does not require an associated commentary.

Q: What happens to the 2007 statement?

A: If the current draft is ultimately approved by the APS Council, it becomes the current position of the APS, and the 2007 statement is moved to the archive on the APS Statement webpage.

Q: What will the APS do with the statement?

A: If the statement is approved, then the APS Council and Board will make a decision on whether to pursue any policy or outreach activities related to climate change. Those activities would be carried out by the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) and the Physics Policy Committee (PPC).

Q: What is the status of this statement on Earth’s Changing Climate?

A: The APS Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate is a draft. The development of an APS statement is a deliberative process. During the last year, consistent with APS by-laws, the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) developed the draft, the Council provided commentary on the draft, and the APS Board voted unanimously to forward the statement to the APS membership. All APS members now have an opportunity to review the statement and provide input during a 30-day comment period. The comments will be reviewed by POPA, and the statement may be modified accordingly. The statement will then be presented to the APS Board and APS Council for discussion. If approved by the Council, the statement will become the official position of the APS.

Q: Why is APS qualified to comment on the science of climate change?

A: A number of issues associated with climate change are fundamental physics topics, including the connection between greenhouse gas increases and warming, radiative transfer, spectroscopy, thermodynamics and energy balance. In addition, climate change is an area of interest for many APS members, including the more than 500 APS members who are in the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate.

These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.