Four-degree climate change – alarmist or realist?
The panel debating the topic – Lynas; Liverman; Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the University of Manchester; Ian Noble of the World Bank; Chris West, director of the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP); and James Painter of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the University of Oxford – agreed that the concept of four degrees was alarming rather than alarmist. Noble and West were about to jet off to the UN climate negotiations in Bangkok, from where they reported that little progress had been made so far.
Kevin Anderson found the conference an emotional rollercoaster. While he's naturally quite pessimistic about climate change, believing that we don't have a "cat in hell's chance" of keeping warming to less than two degrees, the afternoon's session on adapting to four-degrees warming had cheered him up no end. "You're telling us we can adapt," he said. "I felt optimistic today briefly for the first time in seven years." That optimism was brief, however, once he realised that the adaptation sessions had been focusing on economic, rather than human, aspects of adaptation.
The Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) used in the IPCC's fourth assessment report came in for a particular slating. Lynas, for example, said that the scenarios assumed that no policy on emissions would be implemented in the 21st century. "We've seen so much effort go into analysing scenarios that are about places we'll never go," said Ian Noble. "The biggest challenge is how we get to where we want to be." Noble reckons that both the third and fourth IPCC assessment reports were too cautious – he's awaiting the fifth report with interest.
Lynas raised concerns that scientists are not giving out a clear message on climate to the public, and pleaded for a more focused communications strategy among climate scientists. "The Working group III report of the IPCC fourth assessment was a disaster to get through," he said. "We need a Realclimate but with a broader base."