13 March 2009

The Great Copenhagen Disconnect

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Hundreds of the world’s top Climate Scientists have been meeting in Copenhagen. This is the largest meeting, since the release of the 4th assessment report of the IPCC in 2007. I have written here several times about research, indicating that the situation was worse than thought, just two years ago.

arctic-iceThe rate of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing more rapidly than expected in the worst case scenario. Sea Level is rising more rapidly than expected, and the Arctic ice is diminishing much more rapidly than expected. The IPCC scientists made clear in 2007 that sea level rise was a difficult prediction, and that they might be underestimating it. You could say that. The latest Science is indicating a real possibility, of over 1 meter in rise by 2100. The 2007 report was about half that!

The same week that this conference is held, the Gallup organization released a poll that shows the number of Americans who think the threat from Climate Change is being exaggerated, has increased!

This is the great disconnect, and seems to be a hot topic of conversation in much of the Science world. The public just doesn’t seem to get it. Is this the fault of the Scientists? The news media? Is it the fault of our education system.

The economic catastrophe could be to blame. People are too busy keeping food on the table, and get most of their science from cable news. That’s a BIG mistake by the way, although AM Radio is no doubt worse.

A Scientist I know, has suggested that the answer is much less complex. The cold Winter in the East. This may very well be the answer!

Several times over the last couple of months, I’ve heard, on cable news programs, something along the line of ” a climate protest was held in a blizzard today…” and “Al Gore testified to congress during a snow storm…” in stories on Climate Change.

Even people who should know better , apparently don’t. This week, a Tampa Meteorologist proclaimed, during his weathercast, that Climate Change had stopped in 1998, and used the cold Winter in the East as one of the reasons. (If only he had read my last post! See  “No, Global Warming didn’t Stop in 1998″ below!)

Just so you know, the planetary temp. is not measured in your back yard.

It’s measured in everyone’s back yard! (Well, maybe not that guy who lives two blocks over, the dogs would tear someone to pieces)

The map below shows the World temps. in January. The bigger the red dot, the warmer it was. Yes, it was cold in the Northeast. However, The rest of the planet had the 7th hottest January on record!! I wonder how many people, under the blue dots, got called by Gallup??

January 2009 Temperatures

January 2009 Temperatures

The Copenhagen report will be out in a few months, but below are a few of the “Key Messages” from the Scientists.

Key Message 1: Climatic Trends

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. (my highlights) For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts. (My accent here)

Key Message 2: Social disruption

The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on ?dangerous climate change?. Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2oC will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.

Key Message 3: Long-Term Strategy

Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid ?dangerous climate change? regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.

The rest are on the conference website.