The UN climate science panel releases its final report in the current assessment cycle on Monday, and this time it will focus on ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions, although the consensus nature of the reports means it could steer clear of the most dramatic warnings.
Hundreds of scientists will have confirmed the findings about climate change as fact.
And like all reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Monday’s report will only be released after 195 governments have approved not only the findings – but also how those findings are worded in the report’s executive summary.
This hard-fought global consensus can shore up a report against climate deniers who cast doubt on its content. But the consensus also comes at a price, scientists say.
Getting everyone to agree on the facts and forecasts means more confident forecasts are approved while less certain scenarios – even potentially devastating – are downplayed.
“Climate scientists and physicists in general are conservative by nature,” said Texas Tech University climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. “They tend to go with the least disturbing, the least dramatic.”
A 2012 study in the journal Global Environment Change called this trend ESLD, or “erring on the side of the least drama.”
The study notes that in 2007 IPCC scientists considered incorporating new research predicting an average sea level rise of 3 to 6 meters (10 to 20 feet) if the West Antarctic ice sheet were to melt away.
But because scientists didn’t have much time to review and retest the new results, that more extreme projection was omitted from this year’s report, and the IPCC authors instead predicted a far more conservative projection of 18 to 59 centimeters (7 to 23 in). . Rise to 2100.
Coastal communities were only warned of the full risks they face in the next IPCC reports in 2013, and even more rigorously last year, said Jessica O’Reilly, an anthropologist at Indiana University and a co-author of the study.
Improvements in climate science since the first IPCC report in 1990 have made each round of assessments more detailed and nuanced, highlighting potential climate impacts even when scientists are not 100% certain they will occur.
Regarding sea levels, last year’s IPCC report said the world could see an average rise of almost 2 meters by 2100, although this is uncertain.
“My colleagues now seem to think that while accurate statements about the science are also viewed as dramatic, that is just reality and we shouldn’t pull any punches,” said study co-author Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University .
Because portions of the IPCC reports require government approval, the reports are often referred to as policy documents.
Some scientists fear that countries interested in fossil fuels – the main driver of global warming – will try to downplay climate impacts or threats in the report’s roughly 40-page summary. The Executive Summary is a key document as most people will never read the thousands of pages of the full report.
“I never liked the idea of politicians having the final say on the wording of the report,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “This privilege has been abused by bad state actors.”
During closed negotiations on the previous IPCC report on Adaptation to a Warmer World, released in February, oil-producing countries Russia and Saudi Arabia sought to put more emphasis on positive climate impacts.
For example, Russia wanted to highlight the benefits of Arctic fisheries from the irreversible loss of polar sea ice, according to summaries of proceedings published by the nonprofit International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Most of Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s proposals were not adopted.
But governments rarely try to suppress scientific information, as it could lead to even closer scrutiny of a government’s climate position, said former IPCC author Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Instead, delegates will ask for nuanced word changes, Smith said. For example, in February Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador successfully argued to tone down language about the role of climate change in triggering violent conflict.
Even without objections, it’s “painful” to have every country analyze every word and approve the summary line by line, Smith told Reuters in an email.
“I don’t have the attention span/patience for that”.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/new-un-climate-report-to-tackle-reining-in-greenhouse-gas-emissions-41511475.html New UN climate report on combating greenhouse gas emissions