Our emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels affect the heat balance of the Earth, and the resulting changes in precipitation patterns, temperature extremes and rising sea levels already are affecting how society develops. The dynamic interaction between humans and climate is not new, but the scale of the interaction has reached unprecedented proportions. How are the Earth’s massive ice sheets changing? How fast will sea level rise? What are the impacts on rainfall, extreme weather events, flooding and drought? As the oceans absorb more CO2, what are the effects of acidification on ocean ecology?
Along with these questions in basic science comes the search for better solutions. How will changing climate influence our ability to provide water and food for growing populations? How can our communities, particularly those in coastal areas, prepare and adapt? What technologies will help us contain our CO2 output, and make the shift to more efficient and renewable energy? What policies and legal structures will smooth the path for these transformations, and how can we improve our decision-making?
The study of climate science and policy is at the core of Earth Institute research. More than a dozen Earth Institute centers and affiliates combine research and knowledge from many disciplines to address these issues. Foremost among these is the renowned Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and its Center for Climate and Life.