Climate Science From Qualified Commentators

This week, more than most since I woke to ‘Climategate’ in 2009, I’ve been forced to read made-up stuff in the UK press about climate change data, nonsense about climate change scientists, and twaddle about the people and process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Or, I’ve read entire articles hung around the denialist opinion of one unpublished cherry-picked ‘analyst’, from the University of somewhere I’ve not heard of, usually in North America.

All this offal has been produced this week because today, Friday 27th September, 10:00am in Stockholm, is the launch of the Summary for Policymakers of the first report of the fifth assessment of the IPCC.

So, instead of made-up, perhaps ideologically-driven drivel written by self-appointed punters with no head for numbers, data, or independent unselected evidence, here is what qualified professional experts say about today’s IPCC report. I bring you multiple expert voices from my colleagues. I know who I trust.

Live from Stockholm – Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:

“This is not just another report, this is the scientific consensus reached by hundreds of scientists after careful consideration of all the available evidence. The human influence on climate change is clear and dominant. The atmosphere and oceans are warming, the snow cover is shrinking, the Arctic sea ice is melting, sea level is rising, the oceans are acidifying, and some extreme events have increased. CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels need to substantial decrease to limit climate change.”

Dr Tim Osborn, Reader in Climate Change, UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences and the Climatic Research Unit:

“Through this exhaustive – and, at times, exhausting – process we have produced the independent and comprehensive assessment of climate science that governments and the public need to understand climate change. We are now more certain than ever that many aspects of the climate have been influenced by human activity. Looking back at past climatic changes – which has been my main contribution to this report – adds rich detail to our understanding of the climate system. For example, we now know that carbon dioxide levels, which have increased by 40% and are the largest driver of the warming we have observed over the past century, substantially exceed the levels of the last eight hundred thousand years.”

In the US – Professor Sir Robert Watson, Director of Strategic Development, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia:

“The latest IPCC report strengthens its earlier conclusions that most of the observed warming since 1950 has been caused by human activities, and future changes are inevitable. Also, many of the other changes observed in the climate system, such as the rate of loss of Arctic sea Ice, melting of mountain glaciers and the Greenland Ice sheet are unprecedented. Without immediate reductions in global emissions of greenhouse gases, the world will not be able to achieve the political target of limiting the increase in global mean surface temperatures to 2 degrees C, but rather we are likely to see an increase of 3-5 degrees C. Time to act is running out if we are to take the threat of human-induced climate change seriously.”

In Manchester – Professor Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Chair of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester:

“What has changed significantly since the last report is that we have pumped an additional 200 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Annual emissions are now 60% higher than at the time of the first report in 1990 and atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest they have been for over 2 million years. So what are we doing in the UK to help reverse this reckless growth in emissions? Record levels of investment in North Sea oil, tax breaks for shale gas, investment in oil from tar sands and companies preparing to drill beneath the Arctic. Against this backdrop, the UK Treasury is pushing for over 30 new gas power stations, whilst the government supports further airport expansion and has dropped its 2030 decarbonisation target – all this alongside beleaguered plans for a few wind farms and weak energy efficiency measures. Governments, businesses and high-emitting individuals around the world now face a stark choice: to reduce emissions in line with the clear message of the IPCC report, or continue with their carbon-profligate behaviour at the expense of both climate-vulnerable communities and future generations.”

Dr Alice Bows-Larkin, Reader in Energy and Climate Change, Tyndall Centre at Manchester University, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering:

“Six years on from the last IPCC report, and little has changed. Every year we burn more fossil fuels producing more CO2, the laws of physics still hold that the rising concentration of CO2 warms the atmosphere, and as this warming continues, the risk of disruptive physical and social impacts increases. The big unknown is if, or when, we will manage to break our addiction to fossil fuels, and where that will leave us in terms of future climate impacts. Personally, if investing in my future and that of my family, I would look beyond fossil fuels being mindful of the risk of stranded assets left in a future that whichever path we choose, will certainly be very different from today.”

In Oxford – Professor Jim Hall, Chair of Climate and Environmental Risks, Director of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford and the Tyndall Centre:

“The scientific case for implicating human activity in climate change was made long before this Fifth Assessment of the IPCC. This new report painstakingly documents the scientific evidence that has emerged in recent years. I respect the scientists who wrote it and admire them for the work they have done for the IPCC. Some of the evidence has moved on, and future projections have apparently changed compared to the Fourth Assessment Report, but nobody with experience of complex computer models and uncertain observations would be surprised by that. The underlying trend of rising average temperatures and sea levels is clear; I have to question the motivation of anyone who disputes these facts.”

In Newcastle – Professor Richard Dawson, Chair of Earth System Engineering, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University and the Tyndall Centre:

“More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, many of them located in low-lying coastal or delta areas. Urban areas concentrate people, infrastructure and economic activity, making them disproportionately vulnerable to weather extremes like heat waves or flooding. Furthermore, they are major consumers of resource and producers of pollutants both within and outside their boundaries. The latest IPCC findings highlight that in the face of continued global change it remains an international priority to adapt urban areas and infrastructure to be more resilient to a wider range of environmental conditions, and to reduce their contribution towards emissions through more efficient use of resources and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. “

In Norwich – Dr Charlie Wilson, Lecturer in Energy and Climate Change, Tyndall Centre and the University of East Anglia:

“Mitigating climate change requires both widescale diffusion and accelerated innovation of low carbon energy supply technologies and efficient energy end-use technologies. Dramatic improvements in the efficiency with which energy is used are critical in the near term to allow more flexibility in decarbonising the energy supply.”

Dr Annela Anger, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of East Anglia and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:

“A carefully designed and coordinated climate change mitigation, and also adaptation, policy portfolio can benefit the global economy and it should be accompanied by international cooperation and structural shifts in economies. There is not one single economic measure, such as emissions trading, that can achieve the GHG emissions reductions needed to achieve the 2 degree target.”

Professor Andrew Jordan, Tyndall Centre and the University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences:

“The latest IPCC report confirming the science of climate change comes at a pivotal moment, when EU policy makers are battling to resuscitate the emissions trading system, reform internal policies on biofuel and enthuse other countries to agree a successor to the international Kyoto protocol by 2015.”

As a science communication fella, I’m interested to see how the IPCC Summary for Policymakers reads – it has just been posted online. It was finished at 05:00 this morning and approved at 07:00. I’ve just watched the press conference online. This week, IPCC Lead Authors have condensed three years of work and over 1000 pages of technical content into 18 key statements, 20 pages, and 9 graphs, agreed line-by-line with the 111 governments that are participating. Science communication isn’t easy. Science for climate policy is even harder.