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Sunday, November 2, 2014

World’s Scientists Warn: We Have ‘High Confidence’ In The ‘Irreversible Impacts’ Of Climate Inaction

by Joe Romm, Climate Progress, November 2, 2014

IPCC Final
Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming and costs a mere 0.06% of annual growth. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic and irreversible levels of warming, 9 °F over much of U.S. and world.
The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing.
On Sunday, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the “synthesis” report of their fifth full scientific climate assessment since 1990. More than 100 governments have signed off line by line on this review of more than 30,000 studies on climate science, impacts, and solutions.
Like every recent IPCC report, it is cautious to a fault — as you would expect from “its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree,” as one climatologist explained to the New York Times. And that “lowest common denominator” is brought to an even blander and lower level in the summary reports since they need to end up with language that satisfies every member government.
The authors clearly understand this is the last time they have a serious shot at influencing the world’s major governments while we still have a plausible chance of stabilizing at non-catastrophic levels. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said this report will “provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change.” That global agreement is supposed to be achieved over the next year and finalized at the December 2015 international climate talks in Paris.
And yet, as conservative as the process is, this final synthesis is still incredibly alarming — while at the same time it is terrifically hopeful.
How hopeful? The world’s top scientists and governments make clear for the umpteenth time that the cost of action is relatively trivial: “Mitigation scenarios that are likely to limit warming to below 2 °C” entail “an annualized reduction of consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 (median: 0.06) percentage points over the century relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6% and 3% per year (high confidence).”
Translation: The cost of even the most aggressive action — the kind needed to stave off irreversible disaster — is so low that it would not noticeably change the growth curve of the world economy this century. With high confidence, we would be reducing annual consumption growth from, say, 2.4% per year to 2.34% per year.
How bad can it get if we won’t devote that tiny fraction of the world’s wealth to action? The IPCC already explained that in the science report from last fall (see “Alarming IPCC Prognosis: 9°F Warming For U.S., Faster Sea Rise, More Extreme Weather, Permafrost Collapse”). And they expanded on that in the impacts report (see “Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict”).
The synthesis report ties it all together:
In most scenarios without additional mitigation efforts … warming is more likely than not to exceed 4°C [7°F] above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The risks associated with temperatures at or above 4°C include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases (high confidence).
Translation: There is high confidence that if we keep doing little or nothing [the RCP8.5 case], we will create a post-apocalyptic “hunger games” world beyond adaptation.
Ever cautious, the IPCC euphemistically writes of “consequential constraints on common human activities.” Elsewhere they explain that “by 2100 for RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors (high confidence).”
Translation: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years.
Indeed, the report makes clear that future generations can’t plausibly undo whatever we are too greedy and shortsighted to prevent through immediate action. And as bad as the impacts described in this report are, things will be even worse after 2100 in every case but the one where we aggressively act ASAP to stabilize at 2°C total warming.
And remember, this is a super-cautious, consensus-based, “lowest common denominator” report. The Washington Post has an excellent piece on the inherently conservative nature of these reports and why they “often underestimate the severity of global warming.”

So things are probably going to be much, much worse for our children and grandchildren and future generations if we fail to act. Do we really want to find out just how much worse things could be?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The IPCC report (and process) is absolutely USELESS and has been irrelevant for well over a decade.

We KNOW without any doubts whatsoever that the information and data that is finally published in the IPCC reports is extremely dated, resulting in inaccurate assessments and conclusions.

Even worse, critical areas affecting all life on Earth through climate effects are completely missed!

Yet the IPCC continues to be the "go to" source for quotations, references, stats and predictions, journalist, governments and business leaders.

For example - All references to "limiting warming below 2C" are factually wrong because this is now an impossible goal for humanity. It can now never be achieved by any means. This is known by the current data and measurements we now have. Even if global emissions were to immediately stop somehow - we will blow right past 2C.

The "lowest common denominator" does describe the uselessness of the IPCC reports and the process it takes - but only barely. I'd use terms like "irrelevant reporting on limited data sets affecting planetary habitability" and so forth.

The hopium that is continued to be expressed in the IPCC reports - and in all news articles then generated from this disaster - convey the wrong message, such as "there is still time to avoid the worst climate change impacts" and so forth.

This is patently false. The worst climate change impacts are planet-wide extinction of all species and that is EXACTLY what we are now risking.

We are also risking every degree less then this ELE (extinction level event) too, such as the massive die off of most life on Earth.

The actual projections for the surface of the Earth (averaged) now exceed 6C and some scientist believe it will be far worse such as 8C or even higher.

These are extinction level temperatures, which will kill off all the fauna (food sources) for all life on Earth.

The future means "starvation" not "mitigation" or "adaption" and this is where the IPCC fails miserably. It does not tell the world community that what we are facing is worse then imaginable. Billions are facing death through starvation. This is now an unavoidable fact.

You'd think it would be heat stroke or dying of thirst, but what will occur before will be food will become unbelievably expensive - then impossible to obtain. Wars, competition for food (and water) and habitable land to try to raise food and live on will become the primary elements for conflict.

But none of this will mitigate or stop or even "adapt" to these rising temperatures, which will be continuing their inexorable rise.

Humanity will not survive this. No mammal will survive this. Nearly all, if not all, fish species and aquatic life will also die, as their food sources also collapse.

The seriousness of the situation cannot be misunderstood. But that is exactly what the IPCC report does - it downplays the likelihood of extinction to the point of not even mentioning it. And then, the thousands of news articles that are generated from this abomination of truth are gobbled up by ignorant politicians and the public.

The world is saddled with a dead horse that can't run, can't walk, and can only barely stumble.

Replace the IPCC - immediately, by drastically reducing the size and number of participants and the time the process takes. Stop wrangLing over every damned word and speak the TRUTH. Issue updated reports every 6 months. Stop watering down the language and speak the harsh truth of what is happening to the world's climate systems.