Friday, February 2, 2007

The Official Word

The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the UN has released its long-anticipated report in Paris today. It is the most definitive scientific consensus yet (and probably the most we'll ever get from those cautious scientist types) telling us what we already knew: that unfettered usage of oil, coal and other fossil fuels is causing global climate change. Wow, this is a shocking revelation!

For people who've been waiting for some sort of "official" announce- ment warning us that we must act now, this is it. In this century, global temperatures are going to rise at least 3.5-8 degrees, if not significantly more. (Remember that a warming of even a couple degrees can effect catastrophic changes on life as we know it.) And certain parts of the report are even being considered conservative by many experts, such as estimates regarding rising sea levels. The report estimates 5-23 inches, but there has been much coverage this week about 2 major factors that were not included in the report: The surprisingly rapid rate of melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Apparently, scientists haven't yet figured out a way to include this melting in their computer models because it's such a new development. So many scientists are saying sea levels are likely to rise more like 20-55 inches, effecting coastal populations much sooner than was previously expected. Read more about this issue in this Washington Post article.

As depressing as all this is, the panel did throw us a bone: Action can still be taken to curb the warming if we act NOW. I'll leave you with a pertinent quote from the NYT article on the report:

"Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which oversees the I.P.C.C. along with the meteorological group, said SOCIETY NOW HAD PLENTY OF INFORMATION ON WHICH TO ACT (my emphasis)...The implications of global warming over the coming decades for our industrial economy, water supplies, agriculture, biological diversity and even geopolitics are massive,” he said. “This new report should spur policymakers to get off the fence and put strong and effective policies in place to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.” And remember, "policymakers" are only going to take action if we demand it, by calling for mandatory emisisons cutbacks, like the 80% reduction by 2050 that many organizers are calling for. One such group is Step it Up which is focusing on a nationwide day of action to get Congress' attention on April 14. Check it out.

One more quote from Mr. Steiner (via Grist):
"Anyone who would continue to risk inaction on the basis of the evidence presented here will one day in the history books be considered irresponsible." Ewww, I don't want to be called irresponsible, how 'bout you?

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