Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Climate Safety: In case of emergency . . .

The Public Interest Research Centre has published its "Climate Safety" Report which examines recent climate change science. Climate change is "accelerating more rapidly and dangerously than expected" and the "imperative for extreme urgent action on both a national and global scale is now paramount" says Sir John Houghton in the forward (see below). The summary is easy to read and highlights the trouble we are facing. A rapid change towards a low carbon society is suggested as the answer to this complex global problem.


"Climate Safety in presenting this examination of recent climate science brings two important messages. The first is that climate change is accelerating more rapidly and dangerously that most of us in the scientific community had expected or that the IPCC in its 2007 Report presented. The second is that, because politial inaction has delayed progress for so long, the imperative for extreme urgent action on both national and global scales is now paramount."

by Sir John Houghton (former Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change and the former Director General of the UK Met Office)



The summary is easy to read and highlights the latest scientific research (shows the trouble we are facing with regards to climate change).


This section looks at the loss of Artic ice, which some scientists predict will be an ice-free Artic summer by 2010-2015 (some 80 years ahead of the prediction made only 1 year ago in the 2007 IPCC Report). It also suggests "contrary to what the media's coverage may suggest, the Artic melt is not simply a matter of displaced polar bears, new shipping routes, or easier access for oil and gas companies" and then goes on to explain the consequences of early Artic sea ice loss.
Loss of Arctic ice will cause:
  • Increased heat because less heat is reflected dark surfaces such as the sea than from ice, the Earth will be heated more;
  • Additional greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere caused by melting permafrost which releases methane (which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide; and
  • Additional sea level rise (above IPCC projections).
These are all major problems and highlight the need for "extreme urgent action" by governments at the local, national, regional and global level need to act NOW.

If you are thinking that a bit of permafrost melt can't be too bad, have a look at the following graph (which shows the volume of total carbon content in billion tonnes). Notice the MASSIVE amount of carbon contained in permafrost!!

The other interesting graph contained in the report (shown below) highlights the different model predictions of the IPPC's scientific panel, while the black line is the actual satellite observations (notice how it drops well below ALL of the IPPC's predictions). The dotted red line is the revised projected ice melt (a range from 2010 to 2015 has been suggested by some scientists).

It concludes that "the observed impacts of climate change have raced ahead of the predictions of the IPCC's 2007 Report, even in the short amount of time since it was published".


This section examines the difficulties of predicting a certain temperature rise from a particular reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is because "any analysis that connects CO2 emissions to temerature increase must address a complex causal chain in which the key elements, while now well understood qualitatively, are subject to substantial quantitative uncertainty" (Paul Baer, EcoEquity).


This is a great read as it contains lots of information on renewable energy, low carbon transport options, better agricultural methods, energy efficient buildings, saving global sinks (e.g. forests) and other ways to quickly become a low carbon society.


This section sums up and highlights the need for "extreme urgent action" because science is telling us that climate change is "accelerating more rapidly and dangerously than expected".
This is obviously very worrying, however they do suggest that "the prospects for ambitious action in the UK are more promising than they have been at any point in time".
I would suggest that this is also true in Australia and I hope Penny Wong is thinking along these lines. Although, early suggestion of a weak 2020 target are not sounding promising.
Anyway, this report is well worth a read !!!
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