Ecocentric

Climate Scientists Issue Their Report. Now It’s Our Turn

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases the first chapter of its new report on global warming. The findings are clear, but the politics remain murky

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JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Protests outside the IPCC meeting today in Stockholm

95%. That’s how certain the hundreds of scientists who contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released the first chapter of its fifth assessment on global warming this morning, are that human beings are the “dominant cause of observed warming” that’s been seen since the mid-20th century.

In science, which almost always speaks in probabilities, that’s about as clear as you get. This is not news—while the certainty around the scientific case for man-made climate change has tightened somewhat, much of the new report reiterates the conclusions reached in the last IPCC assessment,which was released in 2007. But while the broad conclusions of the science may not have changed that much, the political environment into which the report is being released has changed significantly. Or perhaps better—it hasn’t changed that much. The scientific case for taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change remains clear, despite nagging doubts about the fact that global temperatures have risen more slowly in recent years despite the continued increase in carbon emissions. But exactly what and how much action should be taken, and how politicians should balance tomorrow’s threat of climate change against any number of present day challenges, is something that won’t be answered by another thick sheaf of scientific reports.

Which isn’t to say that the scientists aren’t trying. Going beyond the conclusions seen in the last four assessments, which date back to the early 1990s, this year the IPCC formally endorsed a “carbon budget”—a red line for the amount of carbon dioxide, created chiefly by burning fossil fuels and through deforestation, that can be emitted without warming increasing beyond an internationally agreed target of 3.6 F (2 C). Think of it as a speed limit for the global economy—emit more than one trillion tons of carbon, and we’ll likely be in the red. That should be worrying, given the fact that there are 3 trillion tons of carbon left in the ground, and as I wrote in TIME this week, energy companies are developing new technologies, like hydrofracking and directional drilling, that are enabling them to find fossil fuels that were long considered uneconomical.

That means humanity is poised to blow past the carbon limit, as Myles Allen, an Oxford researcher and one of the authors of the IPCC report, told the New York Times:

Limiting the warming to the agreed-upon target “is technically doable, but at the moment we’re not going in the right direction,” Dr. Allen said in an interview. “I don’t think we’ll do it unless we bite the bullet and start talking about what we’re going to do with that extra carbon that we can’t afford to dump into the atmosphere.”

Of course, we’ve been arguing about what to do with that extra carbon for years, and when the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets for its annual summit this November in Warsaw, the debate will be joined yet again. Optimistically, many governments are doing more about their carbon emissions. Europe has long been a leader, and in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency just announced new draft regulations that would make it all but impossible to build new coal plants without expensive carbon-capture technology. China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, is beginning to realize that it can’t simply keep burning carbon-heavy coal forever—albeit more because of the local pollution it causes then out of fears of climate change.

But the truth is we’re nowhere close to a path that would have the world essentially stop emitting carbon by about mid-century. And for all its confidence on the basics behind climate change and its drivers, the IPCC report underscores that there are still significant uncertainties around climate science, including the role of the understudied oceans, which have been absorbing much of the excess heat generated by global warming; the effect of warming on the animals and plants that live on this planet, including us; and perhaps most importantly, the actual level of warming we’ll experience as emissions continue to pile up in the atmosphere.

Climate skeptics have seized on the fact that the rate of warming over the past decade or so has been less than climate scientists predicted given the continued increase in carbon emissions. The IPCC report address the warming “hiatus,” as it’s been called, raising a number of possible explanations—the ocean absorbing the warmth, changes in the solar cycle, volcanic eruptions that cause cooling—without pointing the finger at a single one. Which just underscores how complex the climate system remains, even as we keep experimenting on it. The scientists will keep working on those questions and others, but the ball is in the politicians’ court now, as it has been for years. Which means, really, that it’s up to us.

178 comments
glubber
glubber

Bryan ... your heading is wrong, it is not scientists hat issues a report, it is IPCC which is nota scientific organ / body. The IPCC people chooses to base the report on those who less or more scientifically supports theire decission that climate changes are manmade. You, by not issueing critical questions to theire postulates are going theire arrends.

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

So this report released now basically confirms the results of the last one released in 2007, which means we have lost 6 years of actions which could have taken place but for the naysayers who have thrown up one roadblock after another to resist any action we might have taken to reduce these carbon emissions, and cast doubt on actual science.  Oddly, these loud voices were coming mostly from people who knew nothing about science.  I 'm not a scientist either, which is why I listen to them!.

As a group the Republicans in our Congress are mainly the ones that stopped the United States from taking any action, so I dump the problems we are facing from their obstinate position squarely in their lap.  However, that doesn't help to solve the problems we are facing.  I just hope they'll get out of the way now and let the people who do know what to do take action, unfettered by their claims and lies about mankinds involvement.

EdLifton
EdLifton

The rise in global temperature is directly linked to the rise in global population.Each baby in the UK will need energy equivalent to a tank of petrol every five days and nearly all of it (91%) is by burning. Population growth also means war. In Syria 400,000 new people a year are fighting for jobs, food and energy, and this is a major reason behind the civil war. Other countries with a high number of births per woman are: Afghanistan (7.0), Mali (6.2), Iraq (4.3). The UK grew by about 420,000 births in the year up to June 2012, the highest in the EU. If you want to offset your carbon emissions, think of donating for contraception in countries where women cannot get it.

CrazyCanuck
CrazyCanuck

I would like anyone to explain to me why the heat began entering the ocean in 1998?  What changed?

Alvin691
Alvin691

@CrazyCanuck Because hidden ocean heat is difficult for the public to dispute, and leads to many more years of government-backed grant-funded research.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@CrazyCanuck Uh... it didn't?  The ocean has always been absorbing a large fraction of the heat entering the atmosphere?  

I'm not sure where you picked up this inaccurate talking point, but it's not in the final IPCC report, nor is that a real scientific fact.  I speak as a physical oceanographer, by the way.

AnumakondaJagadeesh
AnumakondaJagadeesh

The IPCC Report on Human contribution to Global Warming is alarming. Now it is the duty of Governments and individuals to combat this at every level.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India

Alvin691
Alvin691

@AnumakondaJagadeesh No, it is the duty of Governments to read the full report and dispute the differences between it and the executive summary which greatly disagree. 

AnumakondaJagadeesh
AnumakondaJagadeesh

@Alvin691 @AnumakondaJagadeesh 

Some of the disasters occurred in the near past indicate the effect of Global Warming. What I meant is Governments and others irrespective of the contents of the IPCC Report should act to combat Global warming.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India

4TimesAYear
4TimesAYear

@AnumakondaJagadeesh @Alvin691You are presuming that our puny contribution to the total amount of CO2 is the cause of warming. The IPCC was only commissioned to study our CO2 contribution and nothing else. That's not science. There is also no such thing as a "global temperature". Considering that the hemispheres have opposing seasons "global warming" is an oxymoron.

glubber
glubber

"In science, which almost always speaks in probabilities, that’s about as clear as you get."

This is NOT science!!! Science deals with facts not probabilities.  95%!? Either it is 100% or it is zero !!!!!




glubber
glubber

@starman @glubber"Most likely human made" is a statement to me seen as speculations. There is very little science in it. Statistics / probabilities has turned out to be wrong before. The proof of the  hypothesis is still missing. Climate changes is coming, that is not denied.  The role and effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is discussed. There is much more into it than CO2.  I can't believe in models based on speculations. There is very much more than human made CO2 to the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere., the human part is below 1% of the total amount. The mean temp is not growing despite CO2 growth. Where does the CO2 come from when the human part is si small?  This is anyway a hopeless task as most huge CO2 emitting countries is not  reducing CO2, i.e. not signing international treaties to do so.   

It is reasons to be suspicious about the socalled IPCC activities in this matter. Assembling thousand reports does not bring more truth into it.

razorback10
razorback10

@glubber Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities and is able to describe in great detail how things work on the atomic scale. 

Science deals with observations and trying to make predictions on those observations while trying to eliminate error in measurement when possible and refining the theory if needed.  It is a delicate hand that is needed in figuring out which is required in any given experiment.

There are whole books out there on how to statistically deal with data analysis if you are interested.

Alvin691
Alvin691

@starman @glubber And yet the "hypothesis" still doesn't match reality and cannot be proven in a chaotic atmosphere.

integratedcombativeconcepts
integratedcombativeconcepts

@glubber @starman I so agree this is the final death troughs the wriggling and manipulating of the UN to spread their Green Doctrine.  If you want it truly Scientific then the results should be discovered by all Scientist and not just the select groups chosen by the UN.  They still haven't learned to Keep It Cool...a bunch of Alarmists...with nothing that shows that Naturally the Earth warms up and cools down and mankind has offered less to this process than farts from other species....Come on...admit it UN Huggers your Time Magazine (bought out media) bias is so obvious it is a shame.

razorback10
razorback10

@glubber Let us know forget about statistical mechanics, which oddly enough, describes heat transfer among other things.

starman
starman

@glubber Nonsense!  If more and accurate data become available, and they do not accord with a hypothesis, the hypothesis must be adjusted to acommodate them; if increasing bodies of data support the hypothesis, it becomes a theory and will be widely accepted, but it too is still subject to revision, hence Newtonian theory had to be modified once general relativity was demonstrated to work. So, statements about the world are probable only. Do not confuse the scientific enterprise with dogmatism. 

aj1066
aj1066

Note to climate activists: please don’t call me a “denier”. I prefer the more politically correct nickname “non-alarmist”.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

How about the more accurate nickname:  "willfully ignorant"?

Because I'm willing to bet that you haven't actually looked at a single piece of raw data yourself, from any climate-related field, but are still choosing to ignore the experience of actual experts who have.  And yes, *I* actually DO use climate-related data in my daily work.  My personal experience, not that of experts, is what drove my opinion.

Why don't you try it yourself?  There's plenty of data online for free.  (Well, some of it's down because of the idiotic shutdown, but NORMALLY it's available for free.)

GerardVanderLeun
GerardVanderLeun

Let Tom Nelson save you some time.  "Time magazine: When it was warming, the reason was CO2 and climate was simple; now that it's not warming, the reason isn't known and climate is complex."

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@GerardVanderLeun ...Except for the fact that anyone who understands how the interaction of long-term trends and decadal sinusoids works realizes that, in fact, the warming has not abated in any meaningful sense.

Why not take a basic math or physics class, hey?  And after that, for God's sake, take a look at the actual data.

dajadags
dajadags

when has the united nations ever resolved a conflict with a good job done?????  they are a joke and prejudiced against the usa and this climate crap is aimed at leveling our country by trying to harness our great energy reserves as we approach energy independence.  the earth has balanced out comets, volcanos and weather cycles for billions of years.  get a grip you buy into blah, blah means to justify an end suckers, and i have swamp land for sale because you folks are prime....

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

It doesn't matter which side of the "argument" you're on.  The lefties say "we need to do something."  The righties say "there's no reason to do anything."  Neither side are doing anything.  So it's inevitable that what is coming will be far worse than if the ENTIRE human race had been born with brains that recognized danger without "2012" apocalyptic events and done something about it before it happens, instead of just the favored and enlightened few.

It's really too late, now.  It's not about arguing anymore.  It's about thinking ahead and surviving.  Looking at how it's impacting our planet and staying away from the places that will be detrimentally affected.  It's about putting investments into things that will be in gigantic demand in a few decades (or less).   It's about how to anticipate the changes, get ahead of them and ride them to personal and fiscal success.

Climate change is happening, and the data suggests that this "hiatus" is only temporary.  I expect to see the rate of heating at least double in about six to ten years when most of the cooling events that have helped slow the pace of warming end from what it was BEFORE the hiatus started.

We already know the human race is pretty damn stupid.  We are frogs.  Put a frog in a frying pan of boiling water, it will hop out.  Put a frog into a pan of cool water, then heat up the water until it boils and the frog will boil.  I'll be the frog holding the handle of the pan, instead, watching the rest of humanity - the ones whom Darwin would label "unfit" - sit there wondering if it's just them or if it's getting a little warm and arguing incessantly about it as they slowly boil to death.

Argue all you want, folks.  As for me, I'm done arguing.  I'm perfectly content to let the unfit flounder or die.  And I'm not so naive that other people will do anything (because mankind is moronic) to think that anyone else will ever do enough to even remotely mitigate the coming effects.  So I'm preparing for the worst.  You can boil with the rest of the frogs, or you can jump put, hold the pan handle and watch.

ed.scratcher
ed.scratcher

Forbes reported in May of 2013: "To The Horror Of Global Warming Alarmists, Global Cooling Is Here"

 "The 20 to 30 year ocean temperature cycles turned back to warm from the late 1970s until the late 1990s, which is the primary reason that global temperatures warmed during this period. But that warming ended 15 years ago, and global temperatures have stopped increasing since then, if not actually cooled, even though global CO2 emissions have soared over this period. As The Economist magazine reported in March, “The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.” Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 greenhouse effect is weak and marginal compared to natural causes of global temperature changes."

You can check the contradictions on Global Warming for yourself.  Do a search on "shrinking ice shelf" then do another search on "growing ice shelf".  The Arctic Ice Shelf grew by 60% in one year. Would someone care to comment on how Global Warming is causing it to grow?  How is it that humankind has the arrogance to think it has the power to change the climate? 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@saladyears @ed.scratcher Congrats to the Left and the Right talk shows.  Instead of fellas talking about just cleaning up the planet we argue about people being foolish for having  listening to disproven drivel about Climate change...Wish people would realize how foolish they really were for arguing about something that is 1% of the issue of what we are hoping to really clean up.  It would be better to say that every person would live longer with cleaner air and cleaner water, etc... Nope we make it about people being morons for thinking or not thinking climate change exists.  Congrats to you hero's who made it about this

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Realworldnonfantasyland @saladyears @ed.scratcher You DO realize that all you really did was insult two people who were insulting each other?

Let's face it...  Climate change is happening.  Those who will adapt will survive.  Those who don't, won't.  The smart ones will adapt regardless of the "argument".  The ones destined to be consigned to Darwin's recycling bin are those who are sitting here arguing instead of adapting.

You guys argue.  I'm adapting.

Enjoy.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@ed.scratcherJust to answer your question ex...  Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself there.  Sorry about that ed.

"The Arctic Ice Shelf grew by 60% in one year. Would someone care to comment on how Global Warming is causing it to grow?"

There are several factors involved here, ed.  The first one is that there is a difference between climate and weather.  Weather is what you get.  Climate is what you expect.  That means we'll still have record low temperatures - only not as many of them.  It also means we can have record blizzards (more moisture in the air due to a warmer air that can hold it means it can hold more precipitation and when it's cold, that means snow).

Another thing is that there's a difference between the arctic and the antarctic. The Arctic is melting on average.  The antarctic is growing larger ice shelf, primarily, it appears, due to a change in the winds (a recent article here).  But the ice there is thinning, even as it's "growing" because the sea temperature is rising (hence why the hiatus may be happening - the cycle for taking warm and cold water vertically through the Pacific is long and complex).

Additionally, there was actually an increase of 0.05 C per decade in global climate temperatures during the "hiatus".  The "hiatus" refers to the EXPECTED continuing RATE of increase, which had averaged 0.12C per decade.  It did not refer to an increase in general - which did happen.  Temperatures did rise, albeit not as much as was anticipated. 

That discounts the Forbes article's assertion that there was no increase at all - a periodical which tends to parrot rightist views which tend to support using more oil and fossil fuels because those industries are the primary beneficiaries of rightist policies and legislation.  They have trillions of dollars to promote their industries and create web sites that "debunk" the science.  So did the tobacco companies.  And the tactics being used now by the oil companies are the same as those used by the tobacco companies.

The climate is amazingly complex because it's affected by many different things.  Gasses that we put into the atmosphere and that dissolve in the oceans by the trillions of tons per year are among them.  Our cities create new climates because of changes in thermal patterns over them. I also fail to understand how you can possibly think that mankind CAN'T affect climate.  It's not arrogance to think that we can.  It's arrogant to be doing it and refusing to accept the responsibility for the greatest portion of it.

The IPCC report is available here. (A PDF file).  I would suggest that you actually learn what "weather" and "climate" mean before you read it, because your post indicates an appalling ignorance as to their definitions.  Further, you should understand what a 95% certain level means to a SCIENTIST.  Since you're not a scientist, you're not understanding what they're saying - and it's obvious from your post.

Enjoy the frying pan.

4TimesAYear
4TimesAYear

@DeweySayenoff @ed.scratcher"The climate is amazingly complex because it's affected by many different things"

Then stop blaming it all on humans. Nothing is going on now that hasn't happened before.