Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reading IPCC’s 5th Climate Change study in Rochester and elsewhere


IPCCAR5If we were suddenly brought to the brink of extinction, as my favorite sci-fi fable (The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 2008 version) suggests, we’d quickly change our destructive behavior towards our planet’s environment. But alas, we don’t have to answer to Klaatu, or any intergalactic representative of a haughty group of aliens who think Earth needs saving from mankind. Too bad. A group of aliens bent on Earth’s salvation, who cannot be threatened by bullets, offers an interesting thought experiment about what it would take to get us to live sustainably with the rest of the beings on this planet. The fable falls down at the end where Klaatu, convinced of humanity’s contrite reconciliation, climbs back in his spaceship and goes away. Let’s get real. As soon as the threat of annihilation passes, we humans will go right back to trashing the place.

The closest thing we have to Klaatu, perhaps, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC.

Granted the IPCC doesn’t have the ability to rid Earth of humanity’s pollution, or issue any threats. But they do have the ability to speak with one expert voice on the state of the human-affected climate at any one point in time. They are as close as we are ever going to get to objective feedback on Climate Change.

The fifth report, THE IPCC´s FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT (AR5), is coming out in early 2014. It will try again to reach the public and their leaders around the world on addressing and mitigating Climate Change. “AR5 will be the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change since 2007 when AR4 was released. It will put greater emphasis on assessing the socio-economic aspects of climate change and its implications for sustainable development.”(AR5 Contents IPCC.)

Advanced word of the AR5 is that climate scientists around the world are more (95%) convinced of human-caused Climate Change than the last report (90%). Also, as mentioned in this recent article by The Guardian, the AR5 will probably not include this finding “Cooling Pacific has dampened global warming, research shows” because it just came to light. The Pacific decadal oscillation, of which the El Niño and La Niña weather systems are a part, is a possible explanation to the dampening in global average temperatures in the last decade. Climate deniers have seized on this lower-than-expected rise (but a rise nevertheless) as their latest attempts to kill the messengers of the science that is upsetting their agendas. However, what’s very troubling about this report of the slow rise of temperatures is that it may be the harbinger of something worse: “The scientists warned, however, that when the current cooling phase turns, the upward march of temperatures is likely to resume, perhaps at faster rates than before as greenhouse gas emission rates are higher.”

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The AR5 doesn’t come out until 2014. You should give yourself this opportunity to read the AR-5, unsullied by the beliefs and opinions of nonexperts, and the private agendas of others, in order to get the best possible feedback on what’s happening to your planet, your life support system. The report, like all the others, is a free download.

Earth is after all your planet, not any one country’s or corporation’s. It’s in trouble like never before, and finding out about the unprecedented character of that trouble will take some precious hours of your time. Pledge that you will read the AR5 so that when you are called upon to explain your response to Climate Change, you’ll be able to do so with some measure of competence.

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