The IPCC’s 5th report is already making waves

Lots of stuff in today’s paper provoked by the imminent publication of IPCC n°5.

Arctic glacier ice melting in Svalbard KongsFjorden, Norway. Photograph: Goncalo Diniz/Alamy

The Guardian’s science editor Robin McKie reports on the content. My eye was caught by this paragraph:

In addition, the new report has tackled the issue of sea level rises – which was ducked in the IPCC’s previous report in 2007 – and concludes that they could reach almost a metre by 2100. In the following century, those rises could reach three metres, it adds, inundating cities built on coastal regions round the world.

That seems extraordinarily optimistic to me. Do they not expect the Greenland icepack to melt? I shall have a close look at the IPCC reasoning on that one.

Will Hutton, true to form, casts the debate in terms of Left and Right:

[IPCC 5] will be met by a barrage of criticism from the new “sceptical” environmental movement – almost entirely on the political right – which, while conceding that global temperatures are rising, insists that there is still insufficient scientific proof to make alarmist predictions. There is certainly no need for governments to tax and regulate the burning of fossil fuels, or subsidise renewables, or come to “freedom-denying” international agreements. Economic growth, technology and the magic of human adaptation through tried and tested market mechanisms will see civilisation through what is already an over-hyped crisis.

Great stuff! And right on the nail of course.

Nicholas Stern on the other hand comes across as frankly anaemic. There’s no anger here:

Current action is much too weak to reduce emissions by enough to avoid a significant probability of the global average temperature rising by more than 2C above its pre-industrial level by the end of this century. The Earth has not experienced a global temperature more than 2C higher than pre-industrial since the Pliocene epoch 3m years ago, when the polar ice caps were much smaller and sea levels were about 20 metres higher than today.

And he risks adding to what Will Hutton calls wilful confusion by saying that modern humans have been around for 250,000 years,

…so we have no experience of such a climate

which is completely meaningless. 250,000 years or thereabouts may be right as far as the fossil record is concerned, but so what? What “experience” could we possibly have carried forward from such times? To all intents and purposes, modern humans have “been around” for about 12,000 years, since we emerged victorious from the receding ice of the last glacial.

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