The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was established during 1988 by the United Nations, is due to publish a crucial report on the extent of climate change. Based upon leaked documents of a draft of the fifth assessment report, it is anticipated that the group will reiterate previous sentiments – climate change is taking place, mankind is responsible for around half of all global warming, and global policy changes are mandated to halt the ever-escalating problem.
We look at some of the IPCC’s latest findings, many of which are currently hotly contested, and ask the question as to whether climate skeptics truly are as “dumb” as people claim.
The IPCC Report
The work has been carried out by over 209 leading scientists, from 39 different countries, using 50 review editors, and has been subject to scrutiny from the scientific community. Organized into three main groups, the IPCC are attempting to look at the hard science, estimating the impact of climate change, and exploring contingency plans to stem the issue.
Ultimately, a 30-page document is due to be released to summarize their findings to inform policymakers on their next steps.
From a scientific standpoint, debate has been widespread over the issue of climate change. On the one hand, a significant majority of the scientific community have come to the consensus that global warming is happening at an accelerated rate, and is responsible for perceived climate change. On the other hand, scientists opposing this prediction (labeled climate change deniers) posit that the IPCC are being alarmist, and lack substantial evidence to corroborate their assertions.
Writing for the Telegraph, Christopher Booker, who wrote a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster, describes how the IPCC’s computer model predictions have been consistently proven false. He suggests that the climate change conundrum has not advanced since 2009, with a lack of global warming seen over the past 17 years, the Arctic’s ice not having disappeared (as was projected in 2007) and a concomitant lessening in the incidence and intensity of hurricane and tornado activity.
Equally, these thoughts are echoed by Marc Morano, former Senate Environment and Public Works staff member, who published Climate Depot. Morano suggests the 2013 climate events have torn the United Nations “political narrative,” on the impact of global warming, to shreds.
Morano highlights an expansion in ice formations in both poles, unaffected sea levels, continued global cooling since 2002 and a the absence of global temperature increases over the past 15 years. He also indicates that polar bear numbers are increasing, incidence of wildfires is declining and tornado and hurricanes remain at “record lows.”
In contrast, other scientists suggest there is a downward spiral in the ice over the Arctic Ocean. Professor Rahmstorf, an oceanographer and climatologist, working at Postdam University, explains that this melting will be much faster than the IPCC has predicted.
In the past, the IPCC reports have also been subject to great error. It was claimed the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035; this over exaggerated prediction was later retracted by the IPCC.
In addition, the organization had incorrectly stated the amount of land that would be under sea level in the Netherlands. They claimed 55 percent of the country’s land would be below sea level; what the report should have said, however, was that 55 percent of the land was at risk of flooding, with 26 percent of land under sea level.
According to the BBC, the word “uncertainty” is used continuously throughout the IPCC’s report, implying either caution or doubt is creeping into their work. Where the 2007 IPCC report made no reference to any apparent “slowdown” in temperature rises in the past decade, the latest iteration is looking set to make mention of this.
Oceans Taking the Heat
Several explanations have been proposed to explain why the IPCC’s projections on global temperature rises have not been met. Most scientists allege that warming has continued, but most of the heat has been absorbed by the oceans.
One such scientist is Kevin Trenberth, working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who hypothesizes that heat can be trapped deep within the oceans for centuries. In contrast, heat trapped near the ocean’s surface can rapidly return back to the air and, therefore, these oceans do not serve to protect us indefinitely from global warming.
Meanwhile, global warming skeptics claim this to be evidence that the IPCC are using inaccurate, overly-sensitive models, which exaggerate the impact of carbon dioxide.
Despite sea levels having failed to rise in the past decade, leaked details from the latest IPCC report claim that the sea level could increase between 26 to 81 centimeters by the end of the century. Scientists suggest heat may cause expansion of the oceans, alongside an increase in the melting of global ice formations.
Professor Rahmstorf claims this to be an underestimate, however, decreeing that semi-empirical models calculate the rise to be as much as 2 meters.
Are Climate Change Deniers “Dumb”?
Frankly, looking at the situation from an objective point of view, it is difficult to truly understand the gravity of global warming, overall climate change and man’s own culpability. Whilst an argument remains highly compelling when a “majority” support it, you can’t help but feel a little skeptical when seemingly relying upon good faith. Global warming experts have been formulating hypotheses based upon complex computer models for well over a decade; many of these predictions have not come to fruition, however.
The science behind climate change has become so entrenched within society, and embraced by so many within scientific circles, that most of the general public simply see it as an unshakable truth. Conjecture and hypothesis are passed off as fact when learning about climate change at school; so much so, to think anything else would be considered idiotic.
In fact, in calling into question the legitimacy of climate change, many have encountered considerable derision. Scientists opposing the notion of climate change have risked their careers to do so, and are often dismissed outright.
Looking around at article submissions from fellow writers, it is nice to see a wide variety of approaches to investigating the truth behind global warming. Unfortunately, however, many tend to take the word of the scientific community for gospel, sometimes becoming very combative in their approach. For example, one particular article, entitled How to Answer the Dumb Things Climate Change Skeptics Say, seeks to quash the opposing argument through condescension.
It seems strange that any individual could be so certain on a particular subject, without definitive proof. Referring to another’s argument as “dumb,” without proof that yours is ironclad, seems a little injudicious and impetuous. In fact, would it not be considered “dumb” to not question a theory.
The IPCC’s Future
With regards to the future of the IPCC, many skeptics suggest the organization suffocates scientific debate. According to BBC News, a Dutch author Marcel Crok had this to say on the matter:
“It is not designed to answer questions because the whole IPCC process, the whole consensus-building process, is choking the openness of the scientific debate.”
Judith Curry, the professor and chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, located in the Georgia Institute of Technology, criticizes the latest report. She questions how the IPCC’s confidence in their findings can increase, irrespective of the latest pause in global warming.
The EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, defends the enactment of policy based upon the IPCC’s “uncertain” reports. She suggests that, if decades from now scientists admit they were wrong, “… would it not in any case have been good to do many of the things you have to do to combat climate change?“
Governments have implemented fuel taxes on non-renewable energy sources and poured billions into constructing wind farms, and other “green” energy strategies, all in the name of reducing carbon emissions. If these scientists are eventually forced to admit that their climate change theories have been terribly mistaken, it will certainly be a very costly one; incalculable sums of money will have been wasted, and the reputation of the scientific community will be left in tatters. On this basis, what would be the incentive for the IPCC to ever confess they were wrong?
By: James Fenner (Op-Ed)