The IPCC has just released the summary for policymakers of the Working Group 3 report on mitigating climate change. It makes clear that the world has to act quickly to restrict carbon emissions to have a reasonable chance of restricting warming to 2ºC by the end of the century, but establishes that the costs of action are affordable.
A few key points:
Annual greenhouse gas emissions have risen 10 GtCO2eq between 2000 and 2010, and half of all emissions since 1750 have occurred in the last 40 years
If no further actions are taken to reduce emissions global mean surface temperature in 2100 will increase by 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels
To have a reasonable chance of staying under 2ºC of warming in 2100 means restricting greenhouse gases to 450 ppm CO2eq
Hitting 450 ppm CO2eq will mean “substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use”
Typical 450 ppm CO2eq scenarios include overshooting the target and then removal of CO2 by bionenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), though “carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees, associated with challenges and risks”
The Cancun pledges are not consistent with cost-effective efforts to hit 2ºC, and are more likely to commit the world to 3ºC of warming
The sooner we act, the cheaper overall mitigation will be – as little as 0.06% of annual GDP growth to hit 450 ppm CO2eq
Commenting on the report for the Science Media Centre, VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick said:
The WGIII report charts many possible futures where we cap the warming at 2 degrees. Action, such as moving to 100% renewable electricity generation, needs to start immediately. New Zealand is as well-placed as any nation to lead the world on this, provided we have the political will. That appears to be lacking right now – there’s plenty of talk about emissions reductions targets, while at the same time we’re opening the country up to more oil drilling and coal mining. The latest MfE report shows New Zealand’s emissions have gone up 25% since 1990, and they are on track to keep rising.
Per head of population, we are some of the biggest emitters on the planet. Clean and green? 100% pure? Right now – I don’t think so.
Read more at The Guardian and BBC. I’ll have a post with more NZ reaction in due course.
This week’s Daily Blog post takes a further look at NZ political responses to the release of the of the second part of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, and ponders how everyone who has gleefully claimed that adaptation is all we need to do will react when the third report — on mitigating carbon emissions — is released next week. Good risk management would mean planning to adapt to four degrees of warming, while aiming at emissions reductions that would restrict warming to two degrees…
After the usual run of late nights and argument, the IPCC has released the second part of its fifth report — the Working Group 2 report on climate impacts and risks management. Commenting on the report, VUW climate scientist Professor Tim Naish said “this latest report makes it quite clear that New Zealand is under-prepared and faces a significant ‘adaptation deficit’ in the context of the projected impacts and risks from global average warming of +2 to 4°C by the end of the century.”
The IPCC identifies eight key regional risks for New Zealand and Australia:
significant impacts on coral reefs in Australia as oceans warm and acidify
loss of montane ecosystems in Australia, as climate warms and snow lines rise
increased frequency of and intensity of flooding in NZ and Australia
water resources in Southern Australia will be under increased pressure
more intense heatwaves will bring increased death rates and infrastructure damage
increasing risks of damaging wildfires in New Zealand and southern Australia
increased risks to coastal infrastructure and ecosystems from sea level rise
risk of severe drying in parts of Australia could hit agricultural production
For New Zealand, extreme weather events such as flooding and heatwaves are expected to increase in frequency and severity, and rainfall is expected to increase on the already wet west coast and decrease in the east and north east. Sea level rise of up to one metre is expected to cause significant problems for coastal communities.
VUW’s Jim Renwick points to sea level rise as a big issue:
Every 10cm of rise triples the risk of a given inundation event, and we are expecting something like a metre of rise this century. That would mean today’s 1-in-100 year event occurs at least annually at many New Zealand coastal locations. New Zealand has a great deal of valuable property and infrastructure close to the coast that will be increasingly at risk as time goes on.
The Summary for Policymakers of the WG2 report is available here (pdf), and the final draft of the full report can be downloaded from this page. The Australia and New Zealand chapter (25) is here (pdf) and the Small Islands (Ch 29) here (pdf).
It must be like Groundhog Day for Mario Molina, the scientist who has presided over the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s new report and publicity drive aimed at convincing Americans about the urgency of what’s happening on climate change.
The normally reticent AAAS has taken a highly unusual step. There’s no new science in it. Instead, it summarises “what we know” on climate science, highlighting the 97% consensus on the issue and calling for action.
Why did they do it? The AAAS says it’s becoming alarmed at the American public’s views on climate change, stating in the opening paragraphs:
“Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement. Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.”
They’re right: the latest Gallup Poll published this month shows that climate change is low on Americans’ priority list, with 51% saying they worry about climate change very little – or not at all. And 42% said they believe the seriousness of the issue was “generally exaggerated.”
Here’s one of their videos:
The AAAS report also stated:
“It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred.”
That’s not their job. But I bet they’d like to. Especially Mario Molina.
The reason for that American disconnect between scientific and public views on global warming is simple: it’s the result of a 20-year campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry that profits from the very products causing it – oil, coal and gas. It’s got nothing to do with science per se.
A brief history of that campaign is outlined in a report I wrote last year: “Dealing in Doubt” that catalogues the attacks on climate science, the IPCC and on the scientists themselves.
But what’s that got to do with Mario Molina? Molina, now 70, was one of the researchers who discovered the chemistry around ozone depletion. He and two other scientists received the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for their work. 20 years ago, he faced a remarkably similar campaign to what the climate scientists face today.
In 1992, Molina was at a gathering of scientists in Brazil, ahead of the Rio Earth Summit, and about to present a 30-minute talk on ozone depletion. He was dumbfounded when the presenter before him told the assembled scientists that the ozone depletion theory was a sham. He later told the AAAS’s Science magazine(full text here):
“Given enough time I could have carefully rebutted his objections. They sounded reasonable but they were only pseudoscientific.”
At the time, in the face of increasing scientific certainty, there was a (successful) push to strengthen the Montreal Protocol, to further regulate CFCs to stop ozone depletion. The fight was on.
The Science article went on to outline how talk show host Rush Limbaugh was leading the charge against the ozone science, labeling the issue a “massive conspiracy” promulgated by “dunderhead alarmists and prophets of doom.”
Limbaugh claimed the only reason scientists were working on ozone depletion was because “they always want more funding, and today that means government funding. What could be more natural than for [NASA], with the space program winding down, to say that because we have this unusual amount of chlorine in the atmosphere, we need funding.”
This is one of the main mantras of the climate science deniers today – they’re only in it for the funding. They also get labeled “alarmists” and “doomsayers” amongst other things. Same arguments, different subject.
Enter S Fred Singer, a serial denier who cut his teeth on tobacco science, before moving on to ozone depletion and global warming. In a 1995 article, he said this on ozone depletion:
“The facts are that the scientific underpinnings are quite shaky: the data are suspect; the statistical analyses are faulty; and the theory has not been validated… The science simply does not support this premature and abrupt removal of widely used chemicals—at great cost to the economy.”
It’s telling that one of Singer’s early articles, “My adventures on the ozone layer,” can be found today on the Heartland Institute website. This is the same Heartland Institute that last year employed Singer to help work on its “NIPCC” report, designed to confuse a casual observer with the similarity to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) while using debunked arguments to suggest there isn’t a problem – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In 1996, Singer told a House Committee there was no scientific consensus on ozone depletion. He went on to use the high-cost argument, and brought in a new theme that is very much prevalent in today’s anti climate arguments: that it would hurt the developing world.
“We are flying blind on this issue, at a huge cost to the U.S. economy and ultimately to every American household. In less developed countries, absence of low-cost refrigeration–for food preservation and vaccines–could, unfortunately, exact an even higher price in human lives.”
“Scientific findings do not support an immediate ban on CFC’s. Both global and Arctic measurements point to natural factors as the main cause of recent ozone fluctuations. Ozone levels change primarily as the result of natural factors such as the ultraviolet output of the sun, oscillation of upper stratosphere winds and El Nino conditions.”
Sunspots is one of the main denialist arguments used against global warming today, notably by Baliunas’s colleague, Willie Soon. A later Marshall Institute report about global warming, ozone depletion and tobacco science was picked up and pushed by Phillip Morris.
No consensus, science unsettled, the sun, El Nino, in it for the funding, doomsayers, solutions will hurt the poor, natural variations: all these arguments are run today around global warming science by, amongst others, the Heartland Institute, the CEI, the Marshall Institute, S Fred Singer, Baliunas, Limbaugh and others.
The late Steve Schneider described the problem as being “caught between the exaggerations of the advocates, the exploitations of political interests, the media’s penchant to turn everything into a boxing match and your own colleagues saying we should be above this dirty business and stick to the bench.”
The AAAS appears to have gotten off of that bench, not least because they’re worried about Americans sleepwalking into climate chaos, cheered on by industry.
But the bottom line, as the AAAS has stated in no uncertain terms, is this: “human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”
Perhaps our elected leaders might also like to spend some time reading it.
As Stoat points out, the IPCC has released the reviewers comments on the Working Group One second order draft report. And as you might expect, the IPCC’s favourite inexpert commenter, the New Zealand Climate “Science” Coalition’s very own Vincent Gray was busy reviewing their work. Here’s comment 1-549 from Chapter One (pdf) by Gray:
The records shown are not “observations” and they are not “temperatures”. They are also not “globally averaged. They are a set of multiple averages, subtracted from an overall average, compiled from a vaying non-standardised set of maximum an minimum temperature measurements at varying weather sations and ship measurements. They were previously treated as “Mean Global Temperature anomaly” The uncertainties attached to each figure are very great, individual temperature measurements are rarely accurate to better than one degree, so a claimed “trend” over 100 years of less than one degree has a very low level of statistical significance. [Vincent Gray, New Zealand] (all spelling from IPCC doc)
The response from the editors is a minor classic of its kind:
Rejected – The comment does not reflect the scientific understanding. The errors in individual observations are not additive; we are also doing relative analysis that eliminates many of the concerns about individual errors. The reviewer obviously has a limited understanding of the associated error evaluation for analysis of large datasets. See Chapter 2 for more on the evaluation of these datasets. Or maybe even read a basic textbook. (my emphasis)
There are other minor gems to be found as the reviewers deal with Monckton (in the “general” section) and John McLean (seemingly everywhere). In fact McLean’s ubiquity suggests that he may have acceded to Gray’s throne as the man with most comments on a single IPCC report. But don’t expect me to add them all up, I do have a life…
To kick off a new open thread (biofarmer, that’s you I’m looking at), here’s the IPCC’s new/latest video, in which various lead authors and Working Group 1 luminaries talk about the state of our understanding of the physical science of climate. You may also wish to discuss — anything. Have at it…
Another year, another round of climate talks. It’s the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention and we’re back in Poland, the scene of an almost complete non-event in 2008, the year before Copenhagen.
It’s Eastern Europe’s turn to host another meeting, and nobody else was prepared to put their hand up, so we’re back in the land of coal, in the country that has rallied their biggest coal companies to sponsor the conference, and which is dragging the whole of the EU down to their level as they refuse to accept stronger targets. I suspect #coaland will be a well-used hashtag by the end of this.
Usually when you come to a meeting like this, the town is full of banners and signs that a climate meeting is being hosted, but there’s not much sign of it here in Warsaw, except this rather confusing industry advertisement at the airport.
Next weekend there’s a World Coal Association conference in town, being addressed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres, who turned down a talk to youth at the Powershift conference in favour of talking with Big Coal. She’s assured them it’s because she wants to “talk frankly” – let’s hope she does.
Last month the Polish hosts were caught posting a news piece heralding the melting of the Arctic as a new opportunity to explore for yet more fossil fuels. While The YesMen (in a specacular own-goal, in my opinion) tried to claim the piece as their own, it was indeed the Polish Government’s own work. Given this government is chairing the talks, it’s not looking terribly hopeful.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, Cyclone Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has caused a terrible loss of life that’s still being counted – and major damage. With winds at 195mph as it made landfall, it beat the 1969 record, according to Jeff Masters’ blog. Sea surface temperatures were up to 1.5degC above normal.
What role will the science have in these talks? Will the IPCC’s recent working group 1 conclusions make a difference? Figueres has already confirmed the IPCC’s carbon budget figures will not be on the agenda.
Finance for the poorest
This meeting is supposed to be the “Finance meeting” where governments are expected to make progress on committing money to the Green Climate Fund. They’ve promised $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy, but so far there’s little to show for it in the fund.
And a programme to get to 2015
Governments agreed last year that this year would be when they set up the roadmap to get to a global agreement on climate to be agreed in Paris, 2015. This should include a timetable for when they all put their increased targets on the table (early next year would be good) and that they will have a full draft negotiating text sorted out by next year, to be finalised by 2015. But of course that 2015 agreement, even if it does get finished on time, wouldn’t come into force until 2020. If the world does nothing except the Copenhagen pledges between now and 2020, it’s not going to be pretty. So there’s a strong call from many quarters for better 2020 targets to be put on the table as soon as possible.
How will New Zealand stack up? During the course of the next two weeks, expect information to come out that will make it clear what New Zealand’s “fair share” of climate action actually is. Given our walking away from Kyoto and the Ministry for the Environment’s recent admission that our emissions are set to soar, I don’t hold out much hope.
The Australians have made a spectacular start, announcing that for the first time in 16 years, no Minister will make it to the conference. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, recently famous for declaring there was no evidence of a link between climate change and bush fires (using the solid source of Wikipedia) is instead staying at home to dismantle the Australian climate legislation. That’s a Fossil of the Day right there.
Then of course there’s the Russians. What will they do? Will they continue to throw their toys out of the cot about decisions being made in Doha without their agreement? Will they actually start negotiating and be good global citizens? (hint: releasing the 30 Greenpeace activists from the Murmansk prison would be a good start).
More to come, as it happens. From both myself and from David Tong with the Adopt A Negotiator team.
Over at The Daily Blog today, in a post headlined The Inconvenient Neighbours, I consider the case of the Kiribati man who is claiming refugee status in New Zealand because of the impact of sea level rise on his home island. With the IPCC report suggesting that sea level could rise by as much as a metre this century, it’s surely a sign of things to come…
Aafter all the leaks and attempted spin, the final version of the IPCC’s Summary For Policymakers of the Working Group One report on the physical science basis for our current understanding of climate change has just been released. Download the PDF from the IPCC site here. The full report will follow on Monday — a massive 3,000 page tome that summarises 9,200 scientific papers published since AR4 was released in 2007. The bottom line is clear enough:
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
The Science Media Centre asked Professor Dave Frame, Director of the NZ Climate Change Research Institute at VUW to explain the key points:
It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature since 1950;
It is virtually certain that natural variability alone cannot account for the observed global warming since 1950;
Global mean temperatures will continue to rise over the 21st century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated;
The principal driver of long term warming is the total cumulative emission of CO2 over time;
To limit warming caused by CO2 emissions alone to be likely less than 2°C, total CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources would need to be limited to a cumulative budget of about one trillion tonnes of carbon, emitted as CO2, over the entire industrial era, about half of which have been emitted by 2011.
The emphasis on carbon budgets is new for this report, and makes the emissions reduction challenge we face only too clear. Here’s Fig 10 from the SPM:
The black dots on the bottom left represent historical carbon emissions up to 2010. The various coloured lines show what various emissions pathways — new for AR5 (see Skeptical Science’s explanation) — mean for global temperatures by 2100. Only the most aggressive emissions pathway — RCP 2.6, the purple line — gives us a chance of staying under a 2ºC target, but assumes that we are actually reducing atmospheric CO2 by the end of the century. It remains an uphill struggle, in other words, and the hill gets steeper the longer we leave starting out on the climb.
As governments meet in Stockholm this week to finalise the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers for its Working Group 1 report release, I wonder if they can hear the shouting match going on in the world’s blogosphere and in some media.
The bleating of deniers is reaching a cacophony. They are rolling out every single trick they possibly can ahead of the report release.
Global warming’s paused and nobody knows why! The IPCC’s halved its prediction! NIPCC report says global warming isn’t happening!
But their strategy isn’t going that well: the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Australian Telegraph were all forced to retract part of their claims, as they were simply wrong.
Setting aside the cherry-picked shrieking, what’s what’s actually in the draft IPCC report has been leaking out over recent weeks, with the majority of the coverage, undertaken by some of the world’s better science reporters, telling it how it is. Here’s some of it:
Bloomberg: The ice at both poles is melting faster than thought.
Reuters: The “hiatus” in warming is unlikely to last
Reuters: New Colour Purple depicts worsening climate risks
BBC: Human role in warming ‘more certain’ – UN climate chief
Scientists are also jumping in to explain some of the cherrypicked hysteria, such as this great piece by NSW University climate scientis Dr Andy Pitman in The Conversation. Many others are fighting back as well. But it’s still a debate. And the public is probably still confused.
Dealing in Doubt
I’ve just finished the latest version of Dealing in Doubt, written for Greenpeace, updated since 2010. The report outlines a history of the attacks on climate science, scientists and the IPCC over the last 25 years. It’s by no means a full account and there are many players and incidents missed. But it gives a flavour of the doubt-dealing strategies, funded by the fossil fuel industry over recent decades. The same tactics they’re rolling out right now.
Last week the Heartland Institute (see case study in report) launched its latest version of the “NIPCC” – the “Not the IPCC” report, written by deniers Craig Idso, S. Fred Singer, Australia’s Bob Carter and co-authored by Willie Soon, all part of the “continental army” of deniers who’ve been working together for years. What does it claim? Of course, climate change isn’t happening, we’re not causing it, nothing to see here move right along now everyone (and, as the argument goes, stop government intervention to curtail our use of fossil fuels).
Heartland is rolling out its report across the US in the coming months. It claims it’s peer reviewed, but, as Dealing in Doubt outlines, it’s probably more like pal review, one of the ways that deniers are “faking it”.
Or maybe their “peer review” is along the lines of the claims made in the Heartland document where many of the scientists whose work they used to back their claims were outraged at the misrepresentation.
A colleague went and talked with Heartland about their funding – somehow they were reluctant to talk about who’s backing them.
Yet the deniers are still fighting – largely because they’re still being funded. They’re using the same tactics they’ve always used to sow doubt on the climate science. And while the attacks on the scientists are getting worse, some of them are now fighting back.
But their impact is diminishing as people see – and experience – the impacts of climate change. The IPCC’s report this week will confirm this, confirm the certainty and confirm the science.
The history set out in this report, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.
The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.
Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.
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