Published: May 19, 2010

MSU prof on national panel that concludes climate change real, human caused

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Media Communications office: (517) 432-0920 cell: (517) 281-7129

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University professor is part of a national panel that has concluded what many have assumed: Climate change is very real, is caused by human activities, and that action must be taken soon to reduce this global threat.

Tom Dietz, a professor of sociology and former director of MSU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program, served as vice chairperson of a National Research Council panel whose mission was to take a hard look at the science of climate change – past, present and future – and help develop a national strategy to deal with the issue.

The NRC, which is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, released its findings today at the NAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The basic evidence that the climate is changing is very strong, so much so that nearly everyone who is an expert on climate take it as fact,” said Dietz, who was vice chairperson of the Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change. “The assessment that the majority of the change in climate we’ve seen during the last 100 years is caused by human action, primarily by the release of greenhouse gases, is also seen as strongly supported by multiple lines of evidence.

“We feel the evidence is stronger now than it ever has been.”

Dietz said the study of global climate change has been ongoing for more than 100 years and has taken a number of alternative theories into consideration, including changes in radiation from the sun.

“That’s made a small contribution to climate change,” he said. “But we think it’s clear that the largest single contributor to the changes in climate that we’ve seen over the last century, particularly the last 20 years, is the release of greenhouse gasses.”

The report calls for a “new era of climate-change science,” one that improves the understanding and consequences of climate change, and provides solutions that can be put into use at every level, from local to international.

“One thing we feel very strongly about is that many people – governments, private companies, nonprofits – are already taking action,” Dietz said. “Science needs to be providing the information they need to be able to take well-informed actions.”

The report also calls for the development of a single federal program or entity whose charge is to coordinate efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.

Dietz’s panel, which was chaired by Pamela Matson of Stanford University, was one of five that took part in the project, collectively known as “America’s Climate Choices.” The project was requested by Congress and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

More information, including the full reports, is available at


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