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.

158 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?

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

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 !!!!!




aj1066
aj1066

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

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."

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? 

dajadags
dajadags

climate change is just a normal occurence and cycles on thriugh time.

PaulHanson
PaulHanson

How can people be so...unware of all this? Every major scientific organization has pretty much agreed that climate change is affected by human activity. It's not that difficult to understand. I'm not a scientist in the slightest, but I can see why these scientific circles are so sure about the conclusion.

 Entire acres of forest gone for logging and agriculture, overfishing and the all too occasional oil spill, unleashing substances into the air that have been building up under the earth for millions of years, countless species of plants and animals that COULD BE USEFUL gone forever, tainting scarce fresh water with sewage, the overpopulation of the human race...I mean really; what do you expect when the face of the earth has literally changed in a matter of two hundred years via the Industrial Revolution, after millions upon millions of gradual development? Forget the moral and ethical dilemmas and focus on the fiscal issues with climate change for once. This is bad.

Mr.Wallingford
Mr.Wallingford

I've always wondered how Climate Change deniers are able to actually type their messages when their heads are buried so deep in sand. 

Every time someone denies Climate Change I think of that scene in "Naked Gun" where Leslie Nielsen's character Frank Drebin is standing in front of an exploding fireworks factory, waving his arms at bystanders, saying, "Nothing to see here, nothing to see here."

Rachel421
Rachel421

I was just having a conversation regarding how Popular Science is choosing to shut off their comments section.  In their own words:

     "A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of                           scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs                   again.  Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections       tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock                     scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science."

It's unfortunate that an uneducated few with a political agenda can hijack any discussion on science, all under the pretense of being "fair and balanced."  Science is objective.  Equal timing should not be given to the unscientific crowd, as this creates the illusion of debate when there is none.  Read the comments on this article and one might be left with the opinion that there is a debate regarding climate change, when the reality is that a hysterical few choose not to live in an evidence-based reality.   

BorisIII
BorisIII

Everyone already knows pollution is the cause.  Its just that a lot of people pretend its not pollution in order to save money.  Like with electric bills or the cost of cars, etc.

WilliamThrelfall
WilliamThrelfall

Listen ya damn twerps.

The earth is like a giant soup. It has all these different, major components (our oceans, landmasses + poles, atmosphere) that are independent of each other while coexisting in one system. And like beef, corn or potatoes in a soup.. all of these are affected by heat in different ways.

Ice will redirect heat away from our planet, for example, whereas the USA  will not. This is due to the material properties of ice and dirt, they're different. 

In a similar but also different sense, the ocean acts the same. The fact that it is readily absorbing heat at a faster rate now is nothing less than logical. Heat absorption is not a constant state of energy transfer. Once the ocean becomes warm enough, heat will prefer to exist elsewhere. If a team of TOP scientists from all over the world compile's a report claiming that they are 95% sure humans are the root cause of global warming, so be it. Accept it. And if you're not going to do anything about it, then atleast keep you're uneducated opinions to yourself. 

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.

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.

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. 

razorback10
razorback10

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

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.

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. 

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.)

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.

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.

saladyears
saladyears

@dajadags This is one of the stupidest denialist arguments because it's actually a really strong argument for man-made climate change.

Yes, the climate has changed in the past.  However, the climate doesn't just wake up some morning and decide, "time to get hotter!"  It has always, ALWAYS, changed as a result of a particular forcing, whether that forcing is a Milkanovitch cycle, volcanic eruptions, changes in ocean circulation etc.  Once the forcing starts, feedbacks kick in until at some point the energy balance reaches a new equilibrium.

Humans are now the dominant forcing.  We have increased CO2 in the atmosphere on an unprecedented time scale.  No other forcing in all of earth's history has increased CO2 as fast as we have.  They all take thousands to millions of years, not decades.

The fact that the climate has changed so much in response to such gradual changes in CO2 in the past shows that it is, in fact, highly sensitive to CO2, and thus your idiotic statement is actual evidence for man-made climate change, not against it.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@PaulHanson Its two different arguments that you are talking about.  I don't believe we cause climate change and I wish that would get left out of this.  What you are talking about with entire Forests, overfishing, pollution, etc., yes that is an issue that we should focus on.  I honestly think that this is what shoots any kind of green movement down.  Every major scientific organization doesnt agree with climate change.  We had a possible ice age coming in the 50's, 60s and 70's. 

Lets focus on the destruction of all that you are talking about in your second paragraph.  Because that is factual and it is pathetic on our parts.  I'm for getting as close to 100% rid of pollution as possible just so we all can have a better life, but I think the climate change is what kills this being a 100% everybody on board situation because the talk now isn't about lets make this planet cleaner its about climate change and the climate change is what everybody argues about instead of being like "you know what, you are right about how dirty i am making this planet, I will change my habits"

JoshSoffer
JoshSoffer

@Rachel421 I don't believe science is objective; I don't think it makes sense to talk of a reality supposedly  external to our models of it, science is socially constructed and therefore it is an intersubjective enterprise. We transform the world via our understanding of it, learning is construction. This doesn't mean we don't make progress in our understanding of the world; obviously we do, but it means that scientific method(which by the way itself evolves along with philosophy of science ) doesn't occupy some privileged place in relation to other forms of human creativity. Facts are always understood within the context of models, and models are themselves subsets of larger worldviews.

 We disagree amongst ourselves concerning the facts about global warming because the larger worldview via which a minority of westerners(perhaps  a  greater number of non-westerners might deny climate change) interpret the facts offered about climate change  is incompatible with the range of worldviews held by those who accept  the idea of human-caused  climate change. You won't change the mind of many deniers by reference to facts, any more than a liberal will likely change a tea-partyer's mind via facts. It's at the level of worldview that ideas are amenable to alteration and unfortunately worldviews  evolve very slowly.  Many climate change deniers feel alienated from and distrustful of the scientific community  because they see that community as having in general a liberal political slant(at least by comparison with the conservatism of many deniers). So without having the time or inclination to wade into the scientific nitty gritty of the empirical debate, deniers form an overall conclusion based on what they see as a community aligned closely with political figures who espouse ideas that they find non-sensical and dangerous. So what's  the solution to this clash of worldviews if appeal to facts is nothing but a game of counter interpretations? 

As philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn said, often a new scientific understanding doesn't take hold within the larger community until the old guard dies off, and inevitably that's what will happen with climate change attitudes. A whole range of practices and beliefs in which  global warming  denial is enmeshed (pessimism concerning the ability of government to engineer solutions to social problems, a good vs evil mentality concerning human psychology leading to 2nd amendment worship,etc) will succumb to the onslaught of demographic change and continued urbanization that I suspect will made currrent political debates seem quaint anachronisms 30 or 40 years from now.

Of course, for the sake of saving the planet a fortune in economic damage, it would be nice if we could move up that timetable a little.

JohnShuck
JohnShuck

@BorisIII Or as Kurt Vonnegut once said: "We could have saved the planet, but we were just too damn cheap."

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

Alvin691
Alvin691

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

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.

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. 



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

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.

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.

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.