Climate changing faster than feared, but why are we surprised?

October 4, 2018 by Marlowe Hood
The planet is already reeling from a crescendo of lethal and costly extreme weather events made worse by climate change

Nearly every day, peer-reviewed studies on global warming warn that deadly impacts will come sooner and hit harder than once thought.

Virtually none, however, suggest that previous predictions of future heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods or rising seas were overblown.

And so, as the world's nations huddle in South Korea to validate the first major UN assessment of in five years, one might ask: have we underestimated the threat of ?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on capping the rise in Earth's surface temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels has not been finalised, with delegates predicting the five-day meet—due to end Friday—will go deep into overtime.

But a new draft of the 28-page summary for policymakers, obtained by AFP, makes it alarmingly clear that the two-degree ceiling long seen as the guardrail for a -safe world is no longer viable.

With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the planet is reeling from a crescendo of lethal and costly extreme weather events made worse by .

"Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now," Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

"We thought we had more time, but we don't."

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement enjoins its nearly 200 signatories to hold warming to "well below" 2C—and 1.5 degrees if possible, an aspirational goal that gave rise to the IPCC report.

'Short-termism'

Many scientists point out that warnings of a climate-addled future date back decades.

The 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, for example, foresaw the possibility of "global and catastrophic effects" from a 2C jump in temperatures caused by .

"Many scientists have long known that human-induced climate change could have dire consequences," said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a professor of climatology at Universite Catholique de Louvain, and a former IPCC vice-chair.

"Those who have underestimated the severity of climate change are mostly policymakers."

Van Ypersele chalked up political inaction to "short-termism"—election cycles trumping long-term issues—and deliberate campaigns led by the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt about the validity of climate .

But Wolfgang Cramer, research director at the Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology and a lead author of the IPCC report, disagreed.

"Scientists should be a bit more self-critical," he told AFP in Incheon. "Over the last 15-20 years, we have focused mostly on the impacts of a 2.5C, 3C and even 4C world."

"So when leaders asked, 'if we shoot for 1.5C, what will it take?', we could only answer: 'We don't really know'."

Models inadequate

Indeed, the vast majority of 200-odd climate models used to generate IPCC projections in its last major report, published in 2013, presumed a 2C benchmark. Only a handful even considered a 1.5C world.

And for good reason: Though loosely tethered to science, the 2C target emerged mostly from the political turmoil of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, and set the research agenda for nearly a decade.

Those earlier models were inadequate, said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

"Overly conservative, they failed to capture the full impacts of a warming planet on such as those that broke out across North America, Europe and Asia this summer," he told AFP.

The models also underestimated Arctic sea ice loss, along with the pace at which the ice sheets atop Greenland and West Antarctica—with enough frozen water to add 13 meters to sea levels—are disintegrating.

These "feedback effects", both a cause and an effect of global warming, are especially difficult for models to capture, Mann noted.

Finally, science is inherently conservative, doubly so when it comes to the IPCC, whose credibility—constantly under fire—depends on never exaggerating the threat.

"There is a cultural tradition in science, especially climate science, to not want to be alarmist," said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

The 2013 IPCC report, for example, chose to not include in its sea-level projection the contribution of melting ice sheets, which have since emerged as the main driver.

"It was erring on the side of least drama," Frumhoff told AFP.

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Tangent2
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 04, 2018
But Wolfgang Cramer, research director at the Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology and a lead author of the IPCC report, disagreed.

"Scientists should be a bit more self-critical," he told AFP in Incheon. "Over the last 15-20 years, we have focused mostly on the impacts of a 2.5C, 3C and even 4C world."


Perhaps he should have heeded his own words, considering he was the lead author of the IPCC Report and this same article goes on to say:

The 2013 IPCC report, for example, chose to not include in its sea-level projection the contribution of melting ice sheets, which have since emerged as the main driver.

howhot3
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 04, 2018
@tagent2l Big deal. That was then this is now. New observations are making it apparent that the global warming emergency is to the point where attention is critically needed by our politicians to regulate industries that combust fossil fuels or generate methane. It's an industry that has to change for the survival of the planet and if you can't wrap your brain around that is there any help for you?
Anonym518498
1 / 5 (5) Oct 04, 2018
yes and tomorrow the sky will fall in, so please go ride your tricycle
leetennant
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 04, 2018
I mean... we always knew the IPCC projections were overly conservative. We already knew that some of our projections were based on factors we simply couldn't quantify - positive feedbacks from methane for example. And we already knew the real world observations were at the top of - or even above - the modelled projections.

The only reason - and I mean the ONLY reason - we kept talking about 2 degrees is because we knew we had made lower targets impossible through our gross and criminal inaction. If we'd acted on climate change 20 years ago, as we should have, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Even 10 years ago, we could have avoided 2 degrees. As it is, blaming IPCC conservatism over the vested interests who refused to let action happen, is precisely blaming the wrong people.
leetennant
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 04, 2018
The thing that really upsets me is that even the conservative estimates we already knew understated the problem were a clear indicator we needed to act hard, fast and early on CO2 emission reduction. Blaming the fact our projections weren't serious enough for our shortsighted selfishness is really annoying because those projections were enough evidence for us to act. We didn't. That's hardly the fault of scientific conservatism.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2018
The thing that really upsets me is that even the conservative estimates we already knew understated the problem were a clear indicator we needed to act hard, fast and early on CO2 emission reduction. Blaming the fact our projections weren't serious enough for our shortsighted selfishness is really annoying because those projections were enough evidence for us to act. We didn't. That's hardly the fault of scientific conservatism....HAWW...HEE....HAWW....HEEE....

The leetennant jackass brays again.
Oh nose!!! The jackass is really upset. In fact it is so upset, that it boasts about its, CO2 spewing, pleasure cruise to the Antarctic and its plans to do the same to the Arctic.
Now, that's how a Chicken shit jackass, acts hard, fast and early on CO2 emission reduction. Blaming the heretics weren't serious enough for its shortsighted selfishness.......

KEEP BRAYING JACKASS, YOU'LL SAVE THE WORLD.
whygreen
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2018
Because we are not addressing the REAL problem and have focused on Greenhouse Gases NOTHING has been done and we are seeing a cumulative effect now.And it has NOTHING to do with Greenhouse Gases. What is the real problem and solutions ? read How Two Glasses of Water Disprove Global Warming Fraud : Pollution, Sewage and Emerging Diseases https://www.linke...enhalgh/ Do you bieve thatClimate Change will kill you ? Well, do you ?
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2018
pleasure cruise to the Antarctic and its plans to do the same to the Arctic


The jackass, antigoracle...aka..Oil Industry Boot Licker, brays again.
This is the jackass whose argument from his rectum is if you use oil, you are a hypocrite for complaining about global warming. This totally ignores the fact that many of us still don't have good alternative to oil and the oil industry is doing everything they can to prevent alternatives to oil from being created and used. The oil industry makes tens of billions of dollars a year in profit, buys a bunch of corrupt Republicans, and that that jackass antigoracle wants you to stop living your life. No more travel. Did I get it right my Chicken Shit Jackass?

So WTF has antigoracle ever done to combat global warming? Antigoracle's troll brain plan is to lick Oil Industry boots, right my Chicken Shit Jackass?

(Folks, I am trying to communicate with antigoracle in the rude, childish manner he prefers over logic and science.)
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2018

(Folks, I am trying to communicate with antigoracle in the rude, childish manner he prefers over logic and science.)
Good luck with that. His childishness and infantile name calling have been his hallmark since his very first post to this site.

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