IPCC 4th assessment : No surprises

2 02 2007

So I just came back from the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, after a very instructive morning. If you cared to look in the media about this, you already know the punchlines – as everyone did before the official consensus was reached. And the punchline is : since the last report, it has only become more clear how much climate has changed under anthropogenic influence, a fact that co-chair Susan Solomon has repeatedly qualified as “unequivocal”.

What my report will focus on is what you won’t read, see or hear in the mainstream media… In particular, none of the embarrasing mistakes and completely overblown conclusions that scientifically illiterate journalists LOOOOOOOVE to make, just because “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Instead, I’ll give you a view from behind the scenes… I learned quite a bit this morning about the way the IPCC works, and about individual versus collective contributions to the whole. It was truly fascinating. What i am bringing back is an even greater respect for this enterprise, one of the utmost dedication of scientists to the rest of society via policy making.

So you’ll here about that in a few days. In the meantime I will use this spike of enthusiasm for science to get a bit of real work done….

El Niño

Don’t stay in the dark on climate change : mark your browsers and turn your lights out !

1 02 2007
The times are exciting ! The Fourth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due very soon. More precisely, the Working Group 1, in charge of the Physical Sciences, is to release the much-awaited “summary for decision makers” tomorrow at the first hour. And guess who will be in attendance ? You got it.
This is a particularly big event for all those who care about climate one way or another : the IPCC report is the embodiment of years of research by a very significant sample of the global community of climate researchers, and is legitimately considered to reflect the consensus of an overwhelming fraction of said community. Of course, you will always find naysayers, global warming revisionists, refusards – call them however you want – who will tell you that they have been silenced in this report. Be that as it may : even the CEOs of Texaco and Shell will be eager to hear what is said in there, because this report will be the scientific basis of a tremendous political process all over the world (and one hopes, even in the American Congress).
There are few surprises about the document : the ubiquitous “leaks” all point to a strengthening of the message compared to its 2001 predecessor. But I, for one, cannot wait to ask the doers what has been done to reduce the spread of XXIst century temperature forecasts and improve the estimate of uncertainties.
Answer over the week-end, if you subscribe to this blog (do it now !).

And before that, if you fancy participating in a global environmental experiment, here is a French initiative you may want to follow. I know, since WWI it’s usually been the other way around, but this time the French are slightly ahead of the climate game, I am proud to say :

The 1st of February 2007: Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming! The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electricalappliances on the first of February 2007, between 1:55 pm and 2:00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1:55pm in Ottawa, 10:55am on the Pacific Coast of North America. This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris. This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

Note : the environmental significance of this action may not be exemplary… Electrical networks might suffer from an abrupt drop of demand. And when demand shoots up 5 minutes later, coal power plants will be the first to pick up the slack, so it’s not the smartest thing as far as carbon emissions are concerned. As they say, it’s a symbolic gesture to raise global awareness. I for one, want to play that game… just to see if numbers still have power.

Power to those who save power !

El Niño