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Climate Projections: Uncertain but Certainly Worse

By Carla Wise, 11.16.2007
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I can’t stop writing about climate change because I’m pretty sure we are the frogs in the pot of water on the stove.  As the water heats, croaking about the danger we are in sometimes feels futile.  But if we cook ourselves, I need to know it wasn’t because I didn’t try to make it come out differently.  All this evidence suggests the crisis, and the opportunity, are here now – not in our grandchildren’s time, but in ours. So here are three new climate change stories that I can’t make sound good, but I want you to know about them anyway. 

Projections of future climate change are inherently uncertain, according to a recent article in Science magazine.  This groundbreaking article shows that the complexity of the climate system, as well as multiple “feedback-effects” in which warming triggers events which cause more warming, make it impossible to predict in advance how the climate will respond to a given amount of added carbon dioxide.  The nasty thing about this is that science cannot rule out “extremely large” climate change (8 degrees Celsius or more) even under the rosy scenario that greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized at 450 ppm - a doubling of pre-industrial levels.  We are already above 380 ppm.   For two reports on this article go to: www.bloomberg.com and environmentalresearchweb.org

The world is failing to curb growth in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change could spin out of control.  This is the conclusion of a new report issued by the International Energy Agency.  The report projects that if governments fail to implement new policies to restrain energy demand, annual emissions will reach 42 billion tones by 2030, committing the Earth to a projected 6 degree Celsius (11 degree Fahrenheit) temperature rise.  This amount of warming is not adaptable. The report makes clear that immediate, massive action is necessary if we are to prevent a planetary climate disaster. For a discussion of this report, see www.environmental-finance.com

The UN’s top scientific panel on climate change, the IPCC, is about to finalize its 2007 report on global warming that won its authors the Nobel Peace Prize.  But some extremely knowledgeable experts are saying the report will be badly out of date before it has even been printed.  These critics explain that the report fails to include dramatic new evidence suggesting climate change is happening much more rapidly than appreciated even two years ago.   This evidence includes the shrinkage of the Arctic Ice cap, glacier loss in Greenland, a surge in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and an apparent slowing of Earth’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases.  Critics also point out that, subject to consensus rule, the report is often watered down in the final version to satisfy certain participants. The result, they say, is that the analysis, which carries huge political weight, underestimates the scale and threat of future climate change, and what will be necessary to avoid its most devastating consequences.  For more on this, go to www.terradaily.com

Mary Chrisitina Wood, a law professor at University of Oregon, explains the challenge before us: 

“We face a problem that is unprecedented in terms of its consequences; a problem that is caused by virtually everyone on Earth; a problem that so far has been ignored by most governmental officials in this country; a problem that, to solve, requires us to overhaul our sectors and lifestyles; and, as if that were not enough, a problem that requires us to act before Nature passes a critical tipping point looming right in front of us.” 

Here are more links to check out:
           
The Sierra Club’s Cool Counties initiative
www.sierraclub.org/pressroom

The Union of Concerned Scientists page:
www.ucsusa.org/global_warming

The NRDC page:
www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/gsteps.asp

Three stop global warming action sites:
www.focusthenation.org
stepitup2007.org
www.1sky.org