n September 27th, a group of international scientists associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will gather in an old brick brewery in Stockholm and proclaim with near certainty that human activity is altering the planet in profound ways. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report offers slam-dunk evidence that burning fossil fuels is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warn that sea levels could rise by almost three feet by the end of the century if we don’t change our ways. The report will underscore that the basic facts about climate change are more established than ever, and that the consequences of escalating carbon pollution are likely to mean that, as The New York Timesrecently argued, “babies being born now could live to see the early stages of a global calamity.”
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A leaked draft of the report points out that the link between fossil-fuel burning and climate change is already observable: “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010. There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.” If you look beyond the tables and charts and graphs that fill the reports, you can see the Arctic vanishing, great cities like Miami and Shanghai drowning, droughts causing famine in Africa, and millions of refugees fleeing climate-related catastrophes. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, recently told a group of climate scientists that if we want to avoid this fate, governments must act now to cut carbon pollution: “We have five minutes before midnight.”
But, of course, this is nothing new. In 2007, when the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report, it was also nearly certain that human activity was heating up the planet, with grave consequences for our future well-being. And six years before that, when the IPCC released its Third Assessment, scientists were pretty certain about it too. But phrases like “high confidence” in warming do not, to the unscientific ear, inspire high confidence in the report’s finding, since they imply the existence of doubt, no matter how slight. And in the climate wars, “Doubt is what deniers thrive on and exploit,” says Bob Watson, who was head of the IPCC from 1997 to 2002. The final report has not even been released yet, and already prominent bloggers in the denial-sphere, like Anthony Watts, are calling it “stillborn.”
But perhaps the most significant thing about the new IPCC report is not the scientific findings. It’s that the release of the report may actually mark the beginning of a new phase of the climate wars – one in which scientists and activists learn to fight back.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warming-is-very-real-20130912#ixzz2grpe3m00