The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September 27. The media and blogosphere were immediately filled with articles, comments, and push back. It’s a square dance that happens with regularity around this issue. Everybody plays their role. The debate goes on. Unfortunately, time is running out. Here is a simple primer on the work of the IPCC: Since 1988, the IPCC has been compiling reports (this is the fifth) documenting the physical science behind climate change. In essence, it measures the extent and severity of global warming and its attendant impacts, and analyzes it alongside the global response to the problem. Scientists work in tandem on the report; findings are collected based on group consensus. The science community studies articles on topics covering a continuum of subjects, including the impact of extreme weather occurrences (floods and droughts) on world poverty and hunger. The goal is to help shape international policy based on the substantiated data. The report is broken down into four components:
- The science of climate change
- Reports on the impacts of climate change
- Ways to moderate climate change
- A summation and integration of the previous three topics
The conclusions showed that there is no doubt about the reality of climate change; it is caused by human action. Directive: Immediate response is essential. Sea levels are rising, sea ice is declining, oceans are acidifying, and precipitation patterns are changing. There will be more severe floods, storms and droughts. Since the last report in 2007, the same assertions prevailed. “Most of the global warming since 1950 has primarily been caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.” The difference between 2007 and 2013 is that in 2007 the scientists claimed 90 to 100 percent certainty that climate change is the result of human activity. This year it was 95 to 100 percent. Those who have acknowledged the matter of climate change pointed to the findings as a clarion for urgent action:
“The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an important milestone in the study of climate science. It reaffirms the overwhelming consensus that global warming is occurring and is caused by humans…We must act decisively, rise to the occasion and solve this monumental challenge.” ~ Al Gore “This is yet another wakeup call: Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire. Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.” ~ Secretary of State John Kerry “The scientists are sounding the fire alarm. Carbon pollution is causing climate change and threatening us and future generations. The President is sending in firefighters, but Republicans in Congress are trying to tie their hands. Congress needs to stop listening to the big polluters and start protecting the only atmosphere we have.” ~ Senator Henry Waxman
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that he wants to see the report be a catalyst for a U.N. sponsored summit resulting in a global climate agreement by late 2015, with implementation by 2020. The drive to manage present and oncoming risks is still being dismissed by members of the United States Congress and those in the fossil fuel sector. The Competitive Enterprise Institute had an editorial out before the findings were made public. One of their top funders is the Koch Family Foundations. Unsurprisingly, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was quick to disseminate his opinion on the findings. Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee said on Friday, “Today’s release of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Summary for Policymakers proves that the UN is more interested in advancing a political agenda than scientific integrity. The IPCC glossed over the ongoing fifteen-year pause in temperature increases and did nothing to suggest that their predictions might be wrong. With climate change regulations expecting to cost the U.S. economy millions of jobs and between $300 billion and $400 billion in lost GDP a year, we can’t afford to act on politically charged media alarmism…To me, this all appears to be business as usual.” It should be noted that Oil and Gas and Electric Utilities are in the top six industries contributing to Inhofe. On September 26, Inhofe filed two amendments to the Continuing Resolution:
Amendment 1997: Would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Co-sponsors were Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Amendment 1996: Would prohibit the Obama administration from participating in international climate change negotiations unless America offers an addendum to the latest IPCC report stating that anthropogenic climate change is a scientifically unproven theory.
Brad Johnson, Campaign Director for Forecast the Facts, told me that his top take away from the report was the “key consensus” that most known reserves of fossil fuel need to remain in the ground and unburned. Most for Johnson means 67 to 80 percent, and that discounts new exploration. Risk is risk. Those who refuse to gamble with the environment will continue to be pitted against those who refuse to recognize the imminent dangers facing our planet. If average citizens don’t get involved, we could be facing a future only a science fiction movie could envision.