Posts Tagged ‘intergovernmental panel on climate change’

This article written by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, appeared on the editorial page of the San Antonio Express-News on Sept. 2

The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaked to media earlier this week, is frightening and conclusive.

The panel of several hundred scientists, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, says the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause of climate change. The panel predicts an increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and warns that a rise of that magnitude would cause “extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including   a wave of extinction,” according to the New York Times.

Yet U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the Committee on Science and Technology, claims the science is uncertain about how much of the warming is caused by humans.

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In a new peer-reviewed scientific study, experts said satellite data show sea levels rose by 3.2 millimeters a year from 1993 to 2011 — 60 percent faster than the 2 mm annual rise projected by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for that period, however  the IPCC was just about spot on with its predictions for warming temperatures.

The IPCC has estimated that seas rose by about 7 inches over the last century, and estimates a range of between 7 and 23 inches this century.  This is enough to worsen coastal flooding and erosion during storm surges and if the impacts of Hurricane Sandy is any indication, will dramatically impact the dense coastal populations around the world.

The most recent IPCC report did not factor in a possible acceleration of the melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and “assumed that Antarctica will gain enough (ice) mass” to compensate for Greenland ice loss, the new study’s authors noted, but more recent studies have shown that “the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are increasingly losing mass.”

When the next IPCC report comes out in March 2014, we should expect a more quantitative understanding of ongoing sea level rise — and an entire chapter on the topic —given the impacts on the densely populated coastal regions of the world.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today released a special report on the influence of climate change on extreme weather events. In the United States, Americans have endured a record-setting series of extreme weather events in 2011, including the Mississippi floods, record high summer temperatures, and severe drought in Texas and Oklahoma.

In a November 2011 national survey, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that a majority of Americans believe global warming made the following events worse:

What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=5682908]

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According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated the global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide soared by six percent in 2010, the biggest single year increase on record and a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined

The world pumped about 564 million more tons of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, and extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year.

Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010 with India and China’s increased use of coal contributing to those emission increases.  And while broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to the people of those countries, doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on global warming, using different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution.  At that time the IPCC said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution.  The latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, most climate scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative. The IPCC’s worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

One bright spot is the developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

In 1990, developed countries produced about 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, now it’s probably less than 50 percent.  The real challenge will be to get buy in from the developing world.  If we don’t, the problem will only get worse . . . and well . . . see yesterday’s blog.

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burning-worldWith weather catastrophes in abundance this year, the latest warning from top climate scientists paints a grim future: more floods, heat waves, droughts
and with the world’s population nearing 7 billion, greater costs to deal with them.

A soon to be released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change marks a shift in climate science from focusing on subtle changes in average temperatures to concentrating on events that grab headlines, hurt economies and kill people, saying that extremes caused by climate change could eventually grow so severe that some areas will become “increasingly marginal asplaces to live.”

The final version of the report will be issued in a few weeks. The draft says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of human-made greenhouse gases.

By the end of the century, the intense, single-day rainstorms that typically happen once every 20 years will probably happen about twice a decade, the report said.

The opposite type of disaster – a drought such as the stubbornly long dry spell gripping Texas and parts of the Southwest – could also happen more often as the world  warms.

The Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, taking a cue from the state leadership is not is not committing to how much the current drought, Texas’ worst single-year  one on record, is connected to climate change.  But he does acknowledge that the drought is caused by a lack of rainfall and record heat; and at least part of the heat is due to global warming.

In the future, climate change will make droughts even more severe, with higher temperatures causing more evaporation and thus putting a greater strain on water resources.

The report does say scientists are “virtually certain” – 99 percent – that the world will have more extreme spells of heat and fewer of cold. Heat waves could peak as much as 5 degrees higher by midcentury and even 9 degrees by the end of the century.

In the United States this year, we set 2,703 daily high temperature records, compared with only 300 cold records during that period, making it the hottest summer in the U.S. since the Dust Bowl of 1936, according to Weather Underground.

The report’s summary chapter didn’t detail which regions might suffer extremes so severe that they become only marginally habitable, but we may learn more once the report is released.

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A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas ...

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas in 1935. - wikipedia.org

Texas is not immune to the effects of increasing greenhouse gases, according to the state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Dr. Nielsen-Gammon also says the international science on climate change is fundamentally sound despite challenges from state officials, and the drought in Central Texas is likely to continue.  Below are excerpts from an interview with the Texas Tribune. (more…)

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Last weekend professors and scientists from four major Texas universities joined forces to write an editorial in the Houston Chronicle defending the science of global warming from skeptics and deniers.  Check it out!

On global warming, the science is solid

In recent months, e-mails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom and errors in one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports have caused a flurry of questions about the validity of climate change science.

These issues have led several states, including Texas, to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide (also known as greenhouse gases) are a threat to human health.

However, Texas’ challenge to the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon dioxide contains very little science. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott admitted that the state did not consult any climate scientists, including the many here in the state, before putting together the challenge to the EPA. Instead, the footnotes in the document reveal that the state relied mainly on British newspaper articles to make its case.

Contrary to what one might read in newspapers, the science of climate change is strong. Our own work and the immense body of independent research conducted around the world leaves no doubt regarding the following key points: (more…)

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