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article imageUN authors: 'We can no longer plead ignorance' on climate change Special

By Sandy Dechert     Mar 31, 2014 in Environment
At a press conference in Yokohama, Japan, this morning, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its most recent report on impacts of human activities on current and future climate: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.
Suzanne Goldenberg, senior environment reporter at The Guardian, emphasizes the five most important conclusions:
1. Food threat.
2. Human security.
3. Inequality.
4. No-one is safe.
5. It's hard but not hopeless.
For more, see “The IPCC’s Blockbuster 5th Climate Assessment” in today’s PlanetSave.
The report does not reflect new research. Rather, it summarizes a massive amount of new and more conclusive findings since the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. It’s also important to note that the UN’s IPCC is only an advisory panel. Decisionmaking authority rests with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which meets in December.
Co-chair Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science described the IPCC’s massive efforts:
“The author team assessed over 12,000 scientific publications, benefited from thoughtful comments from over 1,700 expert and government reviewers, read and assimilated more than 50,000 review comments, under the careful eye of dedicated review editors. With every line carefully checked and rechecked, Working Group II has produced what I believe to be the most complete, thorough, and authoritative assessment on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability to date.”
Michel Jarraud, head of the World Meteorological Organization, spoke up in a news conference this morning about the importance of the science behind this report:
“Thirty years ago, the previous generation maybe was damaging our atmosphere, [and] the Earth, out of ignorance. Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse. We know—therefore, we have the information to make decisions and to act upon this information.”
Last fall in several publications I summarized the results of part I of the Fifth Assessment Report under the title “Hear what 259 world experts said about the physical science of climate change?”
True to form, some loud politicians and many mainstream journalists tried to cast doubt on these almost universally accepted findings. The first part of last year’s UN report basically said that climate change is “unequivocal.” It will continue no matter how greenhouse gas emissions play out in the future. The international panel also found it “extremely likely” (95% certain) that human influence has mainly caused the global warming we have observed since 1950.
The report released today is the second in a series of four 2013-2014 IPCC fifth assessment reports. It finds that climate risks multiply exponentially as global temperature and carbon concentrations rise. Like its four predecessors, the report also highlights the need for adaptation and carbon emissions reductions to avoid much worse disruptions. The report is now available here.
You can access a first-rate video of Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability on YouTube. If you’d like an excellent summary of the report’s findings, see the article in Climatenexus.
The New York Times has a thoughtful article today. Also, The Guardian live-blogged the news conference.
More about Climate change, Un, IPCC, Fifth Assessment Report