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Bold words from climate scientists

Posted by Bobby Hayden at Sep 27, 2013 12:00 AM |

The IPCC called the evidence of climate change "unequivocal" and that the "human influence is clear" and goes a step further to endorse "substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions".

Bold words from climate scientists

Ben Serrurier, Program Associate

By Ben Serrurier
Climate Solutions

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body of the United Nations, an international Dream Team of climate scientists who are charged with establishing the best available science on the largest global challenge we face.

Needless to say, it’s a tough gig.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the IPCC is good enough at their job to win the Nobel Prize in 2007 (I’d be lucky to win Employee of the Month!). When the IPCC has something to say, it’s imperative that the world listen – especially when their message is as serious a their latest report.

IPCC temp graph

Humanity's choice (via IPCC by way of Joe Romm @ Climate Progress): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S.

Just released, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis is a compendium of the entire science underpinning climate change, and is aimed at policy makers. To fully grasp the importance of the report’s message it is important to understand that the IPCC operates on consensus and a scientific framework of certainty. This means that representatives from all 195 countries had to agree to every word of the 36-page summary before it was published and the reports findings are categorized by statements of confidence (very low to very high) and probability (exceptionally unlikely to virtually certain). In the past, these requirements have led IPCC reports to be overly-cautious and fully hedged against any uncertainty. With this latest report, that seems to be changing.

Climate Change and smoking

In bold language, the IPCC called the evidence of climate change "unequivocal" and that the "human influence is clear" and goes a step further to endorse "substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions". This is a big step for notoriously wonky and activism-averse scientists. Another unfortunate surprise in the report is a downward revision of the atmosphere's "carbon budget", the amount of carbon we're allowed to emit before we see 2 degree Celsius temperature rise. For those scoring at home, we now have an anthropogenic carbon emission budget of 840 gigatons before we have a greater than 50% chance of 2 degree warming. As of 2011, we have burned through 531 gigatons. And under a "business as usual" case, we'll burn through the remaining 300 gigaton budget five times before 2100. So as KC Golden says, “business as usual is not possible”.

The IPCC report is stark in its language and dark in its projections. However, the future is just that – a projection begging to be changed though positive climate action. By stopping coal export and building a clean energy economy, starting right here in the Pacific Northwest, we can cut our carbon emissions, grow our economy and avoid ending up in the IPCC’s vision of an overheated planet.

 

 

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