Climate Change, Yes – But How Fast?
By Stephen Leahy
Tierramérica (Feb 5) – The predictions in the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which says the planet’s average temperatures could increase four degrees Celsius by 2100, are seen as solid forecasts by some scientists, while others say they fall short.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, running 1,600 pages and officially released in Paris Feb. 2, says the scientific data about global warming and humankind’s responsibility are now overwhelming.
But according to some climatologists, the panel’s forecasts are too prudent, because they don’t take into account more recent studies, for example, about glacier melt in Greenland.
The IPCC is an inherently cautious and judicious group of scientists, says David Archer, a climatologist at the University of Chicago. “At times it is frustratingly conservative,” he told Tierramérica.
The IPCC reports do not publish new science. More than 2,500 scientists from some 130 countries compile and analyse previously published peer-reviewed research. They spend years reconciling the many differences and putting the information together in a summary fashion.
The latest assessment, for example, says temperatures will rise 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100. In contrast, the Third Assessment Report in 2001 predicted a range of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees — a wider range and a lower minimum increase.
“The main difference (between the two reports) is that the conclusions are now so well-supported by observed data that nobody can reasonably doubt that we are in the midst of global warming,” Stefan Rahmstorf, an IPCC contributor, told Tierramérica.
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