Saturday, 10 April 2010

Copenhagen Hangover

I've just been reading a Spiegel Online article Kopenhagen-Kater trübt Bonner Klimakonferenz but it's more than a bad headache we'll get if action isn't taken to keep the global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees. The reductions agreed may lead to increases of up to 4 degrees.

Umweltschützer kritisierten, dies reiche bei weitem nicht für das Zwei-Grad-Ziel. Nach Schätzung des scheidenden Chefs des Uno-Klimasekretariats, Yvo de Boer, laufen die angekündigten Minderungen auf einen Temperaturanstieg von 3,5 bis 4 Grad Celsius hinaus.

There have been attempts to discredit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but this really is a reliable and self correcting scientific resource which has involved many hundreds of scientists. There are some strong sceptical voices which tend to present the IPCC evidence as political propaganda but that suggests ignorance of the IPCC process and the IPCC reports and the evidence they contain. Occasionally a mistake can be found in their reporting - Himalayan glaciers and how far parts of the Netherlands are below sea level - but such errors are few in a report of 3000 pages and readily corrected. Science always has to be open to correction and these do not affect the core conclusions that human activities, particularly burning fossil fuels, are warming the planet.

Weather events at the beginning of this year had many people confusing local weather with global climate. Regional data has more variability than global averages and so it is not hard to find places where temperatures have not risen (continental USA) and a few glaciers (New Zealand) which are growing not receding. It is also possible to select data over limited periods that appear not to agree with that for much longer periods. A decade is too short a period to establish a long term trend. The IPCC has rigorously analysed data over long time scales and on continental and global space scales to identify the significant trends and their likely causes.

There may be some attitude problems to overcome if the public are to accept the science. People sometimes don’t want to believe predictions that challenge consumption levels and lifestyles that are now regarded as normal in the developed world.
If you have opinions on climate change then please express them by leaving a comment or contribute to the Forum on Spiegel Online Umwelt - ist die Angst vor der globalen Erwärmung übertrieben?
For balanced briefings on climate change in English, take a look at Sir John Houghton's contributions available from the John Ray Initiative. I cannot give a recommendation for a German language source because I don't know whose views would carry the same weight as Sir John's.

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