The IPCC tomorrow launches the third part of its latest Assessment Report, dealing with issues of mitigation. It is expected to say that it would be cost-effective to take radical measures to cut emissions of carbon dioxide in order to stabilise atmospheric concentrations at a level below 550 parts per million (ppm), and that this must be done to avoid the risk of dangerous climate change. However, this target is itself being attacked by activists for being too weak. According to them, 450 ppm is the danger level above which there will be serious negative impacts on life on Earth.
The Scientific Alliance points out that these conclusions are derived from the output of computer models based on an imperfect understanding of the non-linear, chaotic system which is our climate. Said Martin Livermore, director of the Scientific Alliance “Politicians and many in the scientific community are putting their faith in the unproven hypothesis that carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change. They ignore the fact that the formation of clouds – known to have a major influence on climate – is poorly understood. They ignore the major influence of El Niño events, responsible for the record average temperatures in 1998 but the mechanism of which we do not understand. And they ignore the lack of agreement between model predictions and observation in the upper atmosphere and much of the southern hemisphere. This is not a sound basis for the most radical global policy proposals ever seen.”
It is clear that there has been a significant warming trend in parts of the world in the last 30 years, particularly in the northern hemisphere. But what has caused these changes, and what will happen over the next 30 years, is not well understood. To believe that we can control climate with our current level of knowledge is misguided. In the circumstances, the global community should focus its efforts on protecting vulnerable areas while helping to lift people out of the poverty which increases their vulnerability. Putting reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as top priority will do nothing for the world’s poorest countries.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- On 4th May in Bangkok, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will launch the report of Working Group III: “Mitigation of Climate Change”. This forms the third part of the organisation’s Fourth Assessment Report, and follows the publication in February of the Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group I report on the scientific basis of climate change and release of the report of Working Group II on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability in April.
- The Scientific Alliance is a membership-based organisation which campaigns for an evidence-based approach to environmental issues and policy-making.
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