The Guardian has obtained a leaked copy of the much anticipated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report they describe in IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans. Over 500 Government and Science officials are meeting in Yokohama, Japan this week to finalize the wording of the final summary on Monday.
"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans," the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.
Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. "Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts," the approved version of the report will say.
May I call your attention to one of the most important paragraphs in this article.
"It's much more about what are the smart things to do then what do we know with absolute certainty," said Chris Field, one of the co-chairs overseeing the report. "If we want to take a smart approach to the future, we need to consider a full range of possible outcomes and that means not only the more likely outcomes, but also outcomes for truly catastrophic impacts, even if those are lower probability," he said.
Here we see a foundation concept in the perspective of modern science in how to interpret complicated science based simulation models such as those that are used by climate scientists. The primary concern is to develop "robust" policy responses that prepare one well for a broad range of scenarios that are likely, or even possible. The point is not to predict with pinpoint accuracy what the temperature in New York City is going to be on June 1, 2050. This is known as the distinction of using models for "prediction versus using them for policy design."
Well designed policies or strategies are robust, and can successfully withstand a wide range of scenarios that may be impossible to predict with any accuracy. For example, if the weather forecaster predicts a 50% probability of rain, and then Nate Silver jumps up and says it really might be only 45% you could either jump into the weeds and dither, or you could just take your umbrella and you are ready for either case.
Roger Pielke Jr, the science writer for Nate Silver's website Five Thirty Eight, seems to be confused about this, as he applies simplistic statistical models to quibble about forecast variations over the last few years. He seems to be totally missing the point of the situation the world is in. I feel sorry for Nate Silver, as he seems like an okay fellow, and a former Kossack who has done many good things for himself, but he has stepped in over his head by using simple spreadsheet models to challenge science based global models.
There are hundreds of millions of people in low-lying coastal areas, and islands that are at risk for flooding from sea-level rise over the next 50 years or less. These people are at risk for being environmental refugees and we currently have no place for them to go, nor do we have sufficient global governmental institutions in place to coordinate and manage the necessary responses. Developing this capacity will take decades and we are running out of time. Due to long delays in atmospheric chemistry many of the detrimental affects scientists are worried about from pollution already emitted will be playing out for decades. A new benchmark tipping point has been moved up to 2036.
Flooding in coastal urban areas, heat waves, drought, and the affects of climate variability on agricultural productivity are likely to be great challenges. This study will predict "(c)rop yields could decline by as much as 2% a decade over the rest of the century." Some fish in tropical regions will become extinct and others will move to places where no fishing industry exists if ocean temperatures change in the ways that seem likely.
Let's hope they do not. Let's hope we have major technological breakthroughs. Let's hope the world comes to our senses and we make extraordinarily proactive responses to reduce our carbon emissions. Let's hope for the best, but plan for the worst. This is what some of the folks at Five Thirty Eight appear not understand, but might if they were not so contemptuous of editorial writers whom they think they are inherently superior to because they know how to use spreadsheets. If some people bothered to read those non-quantative Great Books they might have heard of the expression"pride goeth before the fall."
Back to our main topic.
This article is too rich and important for me to attempt to summarize this late on a Friday night. It is well worth your time to read and I give it my highest recommendation.
The biggest potential risk, however, was of a number of those scenarios unfolding at the same time, leading to conflicts and wars, or turning regional problem into a global crisis, said Saleemul Haq, a senior fellow of the International Institute for Environment and Development and one of the authors of the report.
6:30 PM PT: I modified the paragraph about Nate Silver slightly to focus more precisely on his science editor Roger Pielke Jr who has been the more glaring problem with respect to climate change. Both have been criticized, but I don't really want to make the same level of generalizations critical of Silver that have been well documented by numerous respected scientists as has been done with Roger Pielke Jr.
Also, I am right now writing up an apology FiveThiryEight has just issued on behalf of Pielke for his threats of legal action on several scientists who criticized his work. The release seems to be distancing themselves by referring to Pielke as a freelance writer when a few days ago, he was referred to as their science writer, if not the science editor.