x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Climate change accelerating faster than expected

As a group of researchers' stolen emails provide global-warming sceptics with new reasons to doubt the findings of climate science, the latest research indicates that earlier assessments of climate change have been conservative. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, a synthesis of the most policy-relevant climate science published since the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was drafted, concludes that the rate of climate change, far from having been exaggerated in earlier assessments has consistently been underestimated.

"Sadly for the potential fate of human civilization, rumours of the demise of climate change have been much exaggerated," wrote David Biello in Scientific America. The rumours to which he referred came from climate-change sceptics who this week treated a trove of stolen emails as evidence that the public have been duped by deceitful fearmongering scientists. Since such sceptics are well represented inside the US Congress it was perhaps no surprise that calls for a probe swiftly followed. "After hackers obtained and disclosed the e-mail correspondence of numerous prominent climate scientists last week, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the most outspoken global warming sceptic in Congress, said Tuesday that he'd begun an investigation into what he alleges to be the manipulation of global warming research," The New York Times reported. "He also said he wanted to look into whether the conclusions of an international panel on global warming - and the policies based on it - were distorted. "Mr Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sent letters to many of the scientists whose e-mail messages were made public, and to a number of United States government agencies, asking them to preserve all correspondence as the first step in his inquiry. "The thousands of messages, some dating back more than a decade, shed unflattering light on a number of scientists who harshly questioned the scholarship and motives of other scientists who expressed some doubts about the causes and extent of global climate change." The Guardian said: "The climatologist at the centre of the leaked emails row said today that he 'absolutely' stands by his research and that any suggestion that the emails provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate or hide data that do not support the theory of man-made climate change was 'complete rubbish'. "Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, said that the past week had 'the worst few days of my professional life'. He added that since the emails were leaked he had received personal threats which have now been passed on to the police to investigate. "In his first full interview since last week's theft, which saw hundreds of emails and documents exchanged between some of the leading climatologists over the past 13 years stolen from the university's servers, Jones defended himself against accusations by climate sceptics that the emails provide evidence of collusion by climatologists to fix data." Meanwhile, a new report has been released in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference which begins in Copenhagen in early December. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, a synthesis of the most policy-relevant climate science published since the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was drafted, concludes that the rate of climate change, far from having been exaggerated in earlier assessments has consistently been underestimated. For instance, in the Arctic, the area of summer sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40 per cent greater than the average 2007 projection. The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to ten years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change. To stabilise climate, global emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases need to reach near-zero well within this century, the report states. Andrew Revkin at The New York Times spoke to one of the authors of The Copenhagen Diagnosis. "In an interview, Richard Somerville, a climatologist at the University of California, San Diego, and a past contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the case for climate change as a serious risk to human affairs was clear, despite recent firestorms over some data sets and scientists' actions. " 'If we expect to limit warming to something tolerable, such as the 2-degree C threshold widely accepted as a political judgment, the time is very close where you have to stop temporising and start achieving reductions that are both large and rapid,' Dr Somerville said. He said he and the other scientists who wrote the report 'are speaking for ourselves,' adding, 'Unlike the IPCC process, there were no governments involved, no filters.' "The scientists were driven by a shared sense that world leaders still think there is plenty of time to talk things over, year after year, he said. 'At these climate meetings, once the negotiations start, you get the sense that they might as well be debating steel tariffs,' he said. 'We're trying to say it really is urgent to get going.' A report by the Associated Press looked at some of the major changes that have occurred since the Kyoto protocol on climate change was initially adopted over a decade ago. "In 1997, global warming was an issue for climate scientists, environmentalists and policy wonks. Now biologists, lawyers, economists, engineers, insurance analysts, risk managers, disaster professionals, commodity traders, nutritionists, ethicists and even psychologists are working on global warming. "'We've come from a time in 1997 where this was some abstract problem working its way around scientific circles to now when the problem is in everyone's face,' said Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist. "The changes in the last 12 years that have the scientists most alarmed are happening in the Arctic with melting summer sea ice and around the world with the loss of key land-based ice masses. It's all happening far faster than predicted. "Back in 1997 'nobody in their wildest expectations,' would have forecast the dramatic sudden loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic that started about five years ago, Weaver said. From 1993 to 1997, sea ice would shrink on average in the summer to about 2.7 million square miles. The average for the last five years is less than 2 million square miles. What's been lost is the size of Alaska [about the same size as Iran]." Finally, The New York Times said: "A new report released over the weekend calls attention to the plight of indigenous communities affected by climate change mitigation measures. "The study by Survival International, a London-based organisation promoting the interests of tribal peoples, documents the impact of the biofuels industry, hydro-electric power, carbon-offsetting and forest conservation schemes on indigenous communities worldwide. "'There is an urgent need to address climate change, but this must not be at the expense of indigenous peoples' rights,' said David Hill, a spokesman for Survival International. "According to the report, some climate change mitigation measures have led to exploitation, violation and in some cases destruction of land recognised as belonging to indigenous communities."

pwoodward@thenational.ae