Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Should We Still Heed the IPCC?

Imagine you're aboard a commercial jetliner on a really foggy approach to your destination.   The aircraft has a ground speed of 220 miles an hour.  You're ten miles from the runway.   The pilot's altimeter is out of whack, telling the pilot that you're a thousand feet higher than you really are.   How many minutes will it take before your plane touches down safely on the runway?

Yeah, okay, you're probably going to be a smoking hole in the ground long before your ever reach the runway.   This brings me to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

The IPCC has become the climate change altimeter of choice for many governments.   The Panel's reports are what they use to gaze into the future and to shape their climate mitigation and adaptation policies.   Yet, time and again, we find the IPCC projections and timelines seriously understated.   And critics are saying the optimistic errors are leading us into dangerous territory.

As the latest round of United Nations climate talks in Doha wrap up this week, climate experts warn that the IPCC's failure to adequately project the threats that rising global carbon emissions represent has serious consequences: The IPCC’s overly conservative reading of the science, they say, means governments and the public could be blindsided by the rapid onset of the flooding, extreme storms, drought, and other impacts associated with catastrophic global warming.

"We're underestimating the fact that climate change is rearing its head," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a lead author of key sections of the 2001 and 2007 IPCC reports. "And we're underestimating the role of humans, and this means we're underestimating what it means for the future and what we should be planning for."

A comparison of past IPCC predictions against 22 years of weather data and the latest climate science find that the IPCC has consistently underplayed the intensity of global warming in each of its four major reports released since 1990.

The tendency to underplay climate impacts needs to be recognized, conclude the authors of a recent paper exploring this bias. Failure to do so, they wrote in their study published last month in the journal Global Environmental Change, "could prevent the full recognition, articulation and acknowledgement of dramatic natural phenomena that may in fact be occurring."

The conservative bias stems from several sources, scientists say. Part can be attributed to science's aversion to drama and dramatic conclusions: So-called outlier events — results at far ends of the spectrum — are often pruned. Such controversial findings require years of painstaking, independent verification.


Anonymous said...

How come the temperature of the earth has not risen since 1998?
The carbon released has increased some 30 points within this period!
I have my views, what do you say?

BTW , if you are just North of Nanaimo it's time we had a beer.

Very good Blog.

The Mound of Sound said...

As you asked, I have a few things to add. To begin, let's follow the money. If what you're saying was remotely true, and it's not, the fossil fuel industries, that have literally hundreds of billions of dollars worth of inventory at stake, would be using that assertion to shut down the climate scientists for all time.

They have the power, they have the influence, they have the lobbyists and they have money to utterly eclipse science types. Their campaign would be relentless, unstoppable - if only what you said was believable. It's not and I just demonstrated why you should grasp that.

Where is their science? Where are you getting this nonsense about the world not having warmed since 1998? There are plenty of sources that perpetuate these scams but none of them are credible. Were they (see the argument above) their all too accommodating U.S. Congress would be championing their cause. Leave Jimmy Inhofe out of this. The Repugs aren't deficient in idiots for hire.

I would suggest you visit where you can find these and the other routine myths utterly shredded with factual resources.

As for that beer, well I'm always happy to share a jar or two.