The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced four massive assessments of climate-change science since 1990. Its efforts culminated this year in a summary report that many argue delivers solid answers to the biggest questions - whether and to what extent humans are contributing to global warming - while laying a strong foundation for dealing with the possible dangers and finding potential solutions. Now, some are beginning to argue, it's time for the IPCC to change gear and alter the way it works.
In a policy forum piece published today in Science (1), two scientists argue that the IPCC must become a nimbler body if it is to remain relevant in the coming years.
Until now, the IPCC has produced a set of reports over the course of a year once every five or six years. But waiting until 2012 for another summary report isn't an option, argues Frank Raes, a climate scientist with the European Commission's Institute for Environment and Sustainability in Ispra, Italy, and one of two authors on the Science commentary. "We cannot wait another five, seven years for an assessment," he says. "We have to act." Action, he argues, will require swifter input from the IPCC.
"It's an open debate, and this is the right time to have it really," says Peter Cox, a climate modeller with the Met Office at the University of Exeter, UK. "In some sense, we've taken step one of the IPCC path, which is to demonstrate that climate change is an issue and that it's due to human activities." Step two, Cox says, is to reorganize the process "from end to end" around adaptation and mitigation. "Rather than just elucidating the climate problem, it's got to be more focused on solutions."
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri is currently circulating a paper discussing the panel's future and raising questions about structural reforms - including whether there should be more targeted assessments or fewer comprehensive assessments. He says he personally sees no need for major changes. Major assessments on the order of five or six years will remain useful, he says, while IPCC can respond to demand from policy makers with targeted assessments as needed.
"We definitely need a larger social science dimension," he says, as well as more analysis of economic impacts of adaptation and mitigation. "That's my personal view, but I will be guided by what governments want."
Raes and colleague Rob Swart, who manages the European Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, suggest that the IPCC consider the United Nations' acid-rain programme as a model. The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, which covers Europe and North America, went through an initial period of broad assessments on the science itself, Raes says, and then entered a second stage that has brought together industry, environmentalists and policy-makers to address specific policy questions.
Raes and Swart suggest that the IPCC do something similar. Although it would remain a purely scientific body that doesn't give policy advice, it could shift to providing specific information driven by policy questions.
This might involve a reorganization of the panel. The IPCC currently has one working group that assesses the basic science of global warming, a second working on risks and adaptation, and a third analysing mitigation options. That system could continue to provide broad assessments on a longer timeline, Raes says, but policy questions about how to treat biofuels and deforestation require a more integrated approach.
Martin Parry, who co-chairs the IPCC's second working group, says there is broad acknowledgement that faster, targeted assessments will be needed. But he adds that there is still a role for a body that produces broad scientific assessments independent of the policy process. "I'm somewhat skeptical of integrated assessments," Parry says. "There's something to be said for keeping the science assessment clean and at a distance [from policy]."
Few people question the idea that the IPCC will need to adjust its sights, but some say a drastic overhaul of the organization might not be necessary. Leonard Bernstein, an author of the fourth synthesis report issued in Valencia, Spain, earlier this month, said the IPCC already has a model for this in the way it handles "special reports" on specific topics such as carbon sequestration and renewable energies.
"If you use the special report model, it's not even a matter of adapting the IPCC," Bernstein says, adding that special reports are interdisciplinary and can be issued within a couple of years. "That would make the process quicker, more flexible and more integrated because these reports do cover policy, economics and technology."
The IPCC could also shift its timing, such that one of the working groups releases a report every two years, as opposed to all three releasing simultaneous reports, says Cox. He says such a system would allow each group to build on the latest work done by the other groups, and would naturally encourage scientists in each group to help those currently working on a report.
Pachauri says he hopes the IPCC's future can be discussed and ultimately settled when the panel meets in April 2008, so the new leadership has a "clear mandate" when it takes office in September 2008.
Warmist polar expedition cancelled due to extreme cold
You can't make stuff like this up. The snicker factor just keeps mounting over the antics of global warming alarmists. Patrick Condon of the Associated Press reported last March:
A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite. The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment. "Ann said losing toes and going forward at all costs was never part of the journey," said Ann Atwood, who helped organize the expedition. On Monday, the pair was at Canada's Ward Hunt Island, awaiting a plane to take them to Resolute, Canada, where they were to return to Minneapolis later this week.
While losing toes to frostbite is no joke, one has to wonder if these two publicity-seekers were undone by believing their own propaganda. Did visions of an ice-free North Pole lure them into pressing onward after some equipment was damaged? Extreme cold is to be expected if one is visiting polar regions, and presumably, as experienced polar trekkers, they brought along adequate gear. So why did they not abort the mission when they suffered gear problems? And how many purportedly harmful carbon dioxide molecules were generated by the rescue airplane to be sent to save them from their folly? I hope the two recover fully and come to realize that it can still be really, really cold in the arctic, no matter what Al Gore tells them.
The explorers had planned to call in regular updates to school groups by satellite phone, and had planned online posts with photographic evidence of global warming. In contrast to Bancroft's 1986 trek across the Arctic with fellow Minnesota explorer Will Steger, this time she and Arnesen were prepared to don body suits and swim through areas where polar ice has melted.
I hope they are now letting those school groups know that it is foolish to plan to swim in the Arctric beacuse it gets really, really cold there.
A SOCIALIST DREAM COME TRUE: "NOW THE RICH MUST PAY"
Says the Warmist Nicholas Stern below:
The Bali summit on climate change, which starts next week, will seek to lay the foundations for a new global agreement on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause rising temperatures and climate change. Ambitious targets for emission reduction must be at the heart of that agreement, together with effective market mechanisms that encourage emission trading between countries, rich and poor. The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay. Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen.
The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction is now overwhelming. We risk damage on a scale larger than the two world wars of the past century. The problem is global and the response must be collaboration on a global scale. The rich countries must lead the way in taking action. And in thinking about global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must invoke three basic criteria.
The first is effectiveness: the scale of the response must be commensurate with the challenge. This means setting a target for emission reduction that can keep the risks at acceptable levels.
The overall targets of 50% reductions in emissions by 2050 (relative to 1990) agreed at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm last June are essential if we are to have a reasonable chance of keeping temperature increases below 2C or 3C. While these targets involve strong action, they are not overambitious relative to the risk of failing to achieve them.
The second criterion is efficiency: we must keep down the costs of emission reduction, using prices or taxes wherever possible. Emission trading between countries must be a central part of the story. And helping poor countries cover their costs of emission reduction gives them an incentive to join a global deal.
Third, we should be concerned about equity. Our starting point is deeply inequitable with poor countries certain to be hit earliest and hardest by climate change. But rich countries are responsible for the bulk of past emissions: US emissions are currently more than 20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum, Europe's are 10-15 tonnes, China's five or more tonnes, India's around one tonne, and most of Africa much less than one.
For a 50% reduction in global emissions by 2050, the world average per capita must drop from seven tonnes to two or three. Within these global targets, even a minimal view of equity demands that the rich countries' reductions should be at least 80% - either made directly or purchased. An 80% target for rich countries would bring equality of only the flow of current emissions - around the two to three tonnes per capita level. In fact, they will have consumed the big majority of the available space in the atmosphere.
Rich countries also need to provide funding for three more key elements of a global deal. First, there should be an international programme to combat deforestation, which contributes 15-20% of emissions. For $10bn-$15bn per year, half the deforestation could be stopped.
Countries Missing Kyoto Targets, Taxpayers to Foot the Bill
As climate alarmists around the world head to a tropical paradise on Bali next week to discuss how developed nations should pay to solve global warming, an inconvenient truth has emerged: many countries that are part of the Kyoto Protocol are going to dramatically overshoot their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits.
While it seems a metaphysical certitude that America's green media will largely boycott such revelations so as not to put a damper on the hysterical proceedings, the fact that taxpayers in countries missing these targets will end up footing the bill also appears likely to be ignored. As reported by Bloomberg Friday:
Japan, Italy and Spain face fines of as much as $33 billion combined for failing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions as promised under the Kyoto treaty. The three countries are the worst performers among 36 nations that agreed to curb carbon dioxide gases that cause climate change. The 1997 Kyoto accord designed to slow global warming demands that polluting nations buy credits for their excess emissions from other industrial polluters or investors. ``They're looking at a huge bill now,'' said Mike Rosenberg, management professor at the University of Navarra's IESE Business School in Barcelona. ``That is because none would pay to reconvert factories, power plants and paper mills'' to trim gases blamed for the planet-warming ``greenhouse effect.''
Why will they miss these targets? Hold on to your seats:
Spain, Italy and Japan are likely to miss their Kyoto commitments because they underestimated economic growth and future emissions from factories and utilities.
Hmmm. So, Spain, Italy, and Japan emitted more GHGs than they thought because their economies were stronger than expected. Think Spanish, Italian, and Japanese citizens benefited from this added growth? Yet, because this expansion was better than forecast, businesses and citizens in these countries will be penalized:
Spain will pass 40 percent of the cost for the extra emissions on to businesses, Secretary of State for Energy Ignasi Nieto told journalists in Madrid July 31. The rest will come from taxes.
Do the math: that means in Spain, 60 percent of the penalties will be paid by the citizens. Interesting form of capitalism, dontcha think: grow your economy too much, pay a fine! But there's more:
In Italy, taxpayers will foot 75 percent of the bill for extra permits. ``Italy's behind, and we need to keep cutting emissions,'' said Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio on Sept. 13 in Rome. Japanese taxpayers will pay for two-thirds of that nation's excess, New Carbon Finance estimated, based on the current sharing between state funding and industry.
And, as reported by the Irish Independent Wednesday, Ireland faces similar difficulties:
TAXPAYERS face having to fork out more than _270m so that Ireland can "buy its way" into meeting the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. Ireland is set to overshoot its Kyoto targets by almost 100pc as things stand, according to the latest figures from the European Commission.
Welcome to green capitalism, coming to a country near you without any warning from your media.
CBS Seeking 'Irreverent,' 'Hip' Journalist for Eco-Beat (No Knowledge Required)
CBS is getting desperate. The network has posted an ad seeking a reporter to cover the "eco beat" - with some interesting requirements. "CBS is expanding its coverage of the environment," the ad reads. "We seek a talented reporter/host for Internet video broadcast. We are looking for smart, creative, hard working up and comers, who can bring great energy, creativity and a dash of humor to our coverage. A deep interest in the environment and sustainability issues will serve you well."
So you would think such a job would require a science background or years of covering environmental news? Not exactly. "You are wicked smart, funny, irreverent and hip, oozing enthusiasm and creative energy," the ad reads. "This position requires strong people, reporting, story telling and writing skills. Managing tight deadlines should be second nature. Knowledge of the enviro beat is a big plus, but not a requirement."
Ironically, the ad shows irreverence to what kind of carbon footprint the job duties might require. The ad includes: "Be prepared to see America. Heavy domestic travel." That would continue CBS's efforts across the country. In September, CBS's "The Early Show" showed viewers how one Florida family went to extraordinary lengths with high costs to lower their carbon footprint.
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