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Still Time Available To Avoid Dangerous Global Warming, Alerts IPCC Co-Chair

By Countercurrents.org

26 September 2013

There is a chance that the world can keep below dangerous levels of global warming, said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the UN's climate science panel on Monday.

Opening a weeklong conference in Stockholm , where an IPCC report will be scrutinized by governments and policymakers, Stocker said that the world still had a choice in whether to avoid climate-related catastrophe.

At the same time, Lord Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of the key 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, said: The IPCC report shows the risks are 'immense', and it would be unscientific to ignore the evidence.

Hundreds of millions or even billions of people could be forced to move from where they lived, causing conflict, there could be large-scale destruction of infrastructure and important services provided by nature could collapse, he warned.

Lord Stern's comments come as scientists and government officials meet to finalize the latest IPCC report on Friday.

Sophie Yeo reported [1]:

“Our assessment shows that we do have a choice in shaping our future,” said Stocker.

Dahe Qin is another co-chair of the Working Group 1 of the international report, which deals with the physical science of climate change.

Stocker said: “Scenarios that have assumed determined interventions and strong mitigation offer a chance of keeping global mean warming under 1.5C.”

He added: “On the other hand, scenarios that envisage continued CO2 emissions or postponed reductions of these emissions indicate that options of limiting global warming to 2C may become unobtainable. “The choice to shape the future is ours, and fortunately we are not left to make blind choices, to cast the dice or enjoy ignorance.”

The IPCC report, six years in the making, is due to be released this Friday. Governments and scientists have gathered in Stockholm to approve, line by line, the Summary for Policymakers.

Spoiler campaign

Drafts of the report have been leaked to the media in advance of its official release, and both supporters and detractors of the IPCC have scrambled to interpret them, leading the chairman of the IPCC to dismiss an attempted “spoiler campaign”.


Stocker said overall, drafts of the IPCC have received 54,677 comments, which have been considered by experts and governments.

He added: “I know of no other document which has undergone this scrutiny that has involved so many critical people that offered their insight and advice. This is what makes the report unique.

“It stands out as a reliable and indispensable source of knowledge about climate change. This knowledge is based on measurements in the atmosphere, in the ocean, on land, on ice and from space. These measurements permit and unprecedented and unbiased view of the state of the climate system.”

This week, the panel will consider the 1,800 comments that have been submitted on the current draft, including a controversial suggestion from Germany that references to the 15-year global warming ‘hiatus' be removed – a suggestion which reflects their belief that such a time period is too small to merit consideration, but which sceptics have claimed is part of a wider ‘conspiracy'.

The pressure scientists face

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, speaking at Monday's opening, commented on the pressure that the scientists are under to produce a comprehensive and objective overview of the current science.

He said, “There are justifiable expectations that the AR5 [Assessment Report 5] will be an outstanding scientifically robust and informative report.”

Underestimating climate change risks would be absurd

A Press Association report [2] said:

It would be "absurd" to claim the risks of climate change are small, Lord Stern said before the publication of the IPCC report on global warming.

The latest international assessment of climate science makes it crystal clear the risks are "immense", and it would be extraordinary and unscientific to ignore the evidence and argue for a delay in addressing the problem, he said.

He also warned that scientific projections and economic predictions were underestimating the risks of global warming.

While scientists recognized some potential impacts such as the melting of permafrost, which would release powerful GHG methane, could be very damaging, they were left out of models because they were hard to quantify.

Many economic models, meanwhile, "grossly underestimate the risks" because they assumed that growth will continue and the costs of climate change will be relatively small, he said.

"Both assumptions trivialize the problem and are untenable given the kind of change that could take place," Lord Stern warned.

Stern said any assessment of thousands of sources of information, such as the IPCC carries out, was likely to contain some errors, but the message from the scientific information was remarkably consistent.

The IPCC assessment showed a dangerous underlying trend, based on laws of physics known for 200 years, of the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and their impact on temperatures, with immense risks as a result.

Stern said: "Those who would have us delay have to argue they're confident the risks are small. It would be an astonishing statement to make in light of all this evidence.

There was a growing recognition from governments of the need to take action to address that risk, and he said he expected more countries to take the lead set by the UK and establish domestic laws to cut emissions.

Countries ranging from the biggest emitters, the US and China , through to Ethiopia and Mexico , were already taking action to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gases.

Stern called on the European Union to set a target to cut the bloc's emissions by half on 1990 levels by 2030 to show leadership on the issue.

He criticized moves within the UK government to rethink its five-year carbon target up to 2027 and its failure to set a goal to slash emissions from the power sector by 2030 as undermining the certainty needed to invest in a low-carbon economy.

Climate crisis deniers

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

The Guardian, reported [3]:

Climate change sceptics who claim the dangers of global warming are small and far-off are "unscientific" and "irrational", and should not dissuade governments from tackling rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, the author of the world's landmark review of economics and climate change said.

Lord Stern told the Guardian: "The science is unequivocal and shows there is serious danger. What is coming from [sceptics] is just noise, and should be treated as noise."

He said some sceptics were in the pay of hostile industries, with a vested interest in contradicting the science, and were being "deliberately naive" in claiming the world could wait decades to deal with rising emissions.

"It (the skeptic response) looks very well-organized," he said. "They are deliberately distorting the way we understand risk."

Stern wrote the 2006 examination of the economics of climate change, which found that the costs of acting now on cutting emissions would be much cheaper than cutting in the future or adapting to the future effects of global warming. He has become a leading authority on climate and economics.

Stern said: "There is the danger of an abrupt change in the whole [climate] mechanism. We need to approach the issue as one of risk management."

He said many economists had misread the impacts of future warming because their risk models were not good at taking this into account. He added that the effects of any delay in reducing greenhouse gases were of key concern, because delay means greater emissions and these will continue to wreak effects on the climate system long after the gases were first poured into the atmosphere.

"If delay did not matter, then we might have time to wait (before tackling emissions) but delay is dangerous, because of the effect on higher emissions," he said. Infrastructure, such as new fossil fuel power plants, buildings and transport networks would continue to require large volumes of fossil fuels, and building such fossil-fuel dependent new infrastructure now commits the world to higher emissions for decades to come.

Stern pointed to China , which he said was "taking seriously" the threat from emissions. " China has changed," he said, adding that other governments should take note of the efforts of the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

He said the current IPCC, producing the first assessment of climate science since 2007, was under "less political pressure" than previous reports.

Myron Ebell, of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Guardian: "Global warming, although it may become a problem some decades in the future, is not a crisis and is highly unlikely to become a crisis.

"We should be worried that the alarmist establishment continues using junk science to promote disastrous policies that will make the world much poorer and will consign poor people in poor countries to perpetual poverty."

Stern: economists ‘responsible' for climate policy hesitation

Wrong models

Another report [4] by Sophie Yeo said:

Economists are partly to blame for the vacillations that have stopped climate policy from moving forward quickly enough, says Lord Stern.

Talking on the issue of policy vacillation at the Royal Society on Tuesday, he said, “I think actually economists haven't helped. Why? Well, they've built models that really tell us that the risks are modest.

“They aren't climate science deniers, of course not, but they're building models which have features which essentially underestimate the risk.”

He is due to publish a paper on the topic this week in the Journal of Economic Literature.

He said, “They deal with models which have temperature increases of 4 or 5°C, losses which might be 5, 10 or 15% of GDP. You're talking about a transformed world economy, with lots of people potentially having to move, potential conflict, great disruption of production structures, and they're talking about modest losses like that.

He went on to say that the language of economics alone was inadequate when describing the problems that climate change will bring.

He said, “If I spoke to you about the great leap forward and the great famine in China around 1960, would I say what happened to GDP? I don't think so. I think I'd begin by saying 30 million people died.

“If you asked me to describe the First World War, I think I would approach it in a similar way, so we've got to think about the way we describe the kinds of events we're talking about, and I think just a simple economic aggregate like GDP, although we know that it's helpful for some things and in some circumstances, but this is not one of those circumstances.”

Most of his scorn, however, was reserved for climate deniers, whose argument he branded “daft”.

“There are very few, even among the denial community, who are ready to go out and say the sentence that they really need to say to justify their point. They have to say that they know that the risks are small, or they don't give a damn about the future – one or the other, or both.

“And if you put it that way, it seems astonishing, in the weight of the evidence, that anybody could say they're really confident that the risks are small. You can't be confident that the risks are small because you discover one paper is wrong in a literature of thousands. Evidence builds up.

“They have to make a very powerful statement that very few of them have the intellectual courage to make – and you need a lot of intellectual courage because it's daft.”

Trust scientific truth

On the IPCC report, a work of 259 scientists from 39 countries, to be published on Friday, Will Hutton wrote [5]:

It will be met by a barrage of criticism from the new "skeptical" environmental movement – almost entirely on the political right – which, while conceding that global temperatures are rising, insists that there is still insufficient scientific proof to make alarmist predictions.

Britain 's centre-right media move to join with the sceptics to rubbish a careful body of scientific work that has been arrived at by exhaustive cross-examination. We will be reminded of the IPCC's earlier "mistakes", notably its estimate in the 90s that global average temperatures were rising by 0.15C a decade, when since then they have risen at a third of that rate.

Doubtless, as a UN initiative, there will be efforts to characterize it as the product of Marxists and deluded socialists. BBC attempts to broadcast its findings in as impartial way as possible will be portrayed as yet more evidence of BBC bias, even though the BBC will pack its coverage with lots of skeptical voices, notwithstanding their marginalization by world science, to try to cover its back. By the week's end, the risk is you will be less certain than you are now, tempted to join the apparent new consensus that there is no need for an urgent response. The sceptics will have done their job and national – let alone international – action will be more remote.

In the documents seen by the Observer, it sticks to unassailable facts. Global average surface temperatures have risen by 0.89C since 1901 and 0.6C since 1950. It is 95% likely that the cause is human activity, notably burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

Threading its way through the probabilities, the IPCC's best guess is that temperatures by the end of the century will be at least two degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, with a much greater risk they could be higher than lower.

This is terrifying. The decades ahead will witness our planet become progressively uninhabitable for hundreds of millions of people, because of either drought or floods. The weather will become ever more volatile. Ocean currents will be disturbed and dwindle. There will be mass movements of people trying to escape the consequences; no country will be untouched. We should act to minimize the risk.

Yet the highly ideological rightwing mind does not think in this way. Any call for collective action is to be instinctively distrusted, along with those who make it. Their motives must be suspect and the evidence on which they make their appeal necessarily flawed.

The bigger project is to discredit "climate change socialism".

Science has not helped its own cause. The open science movement, and even the Royal Society, has become concerned that the quest to win commercial funding has made a growing number of scientists too anxious to make their science unique. Too many scientific papers are published in which researchers make it hard for others to reproduce their lab experiments. Key data are omitted.

Compared with what is happening in some drug and cancer research, climate change science is remarkably honest, reproducible and subject to open criticism: the IPCC insists on the best methodology. But for climate change sceptics such as Andrew Montford, Bjørn Lomborg or Nigel Lawson's influential Global Warming Policy Foundation, this is an inconvenient truth.

Climate change science must be greeted with the same sense that science in general is fallible.

This helps their case, but so does the widespread resignation that politics and government are inefficient and helpless, a view propagated by the right on a daily basis.

On top of all this, there is the astonishing political economy of Britain 's media. The duty of newspapers to impart information as objectively and truthfully as possible, keeping comment rigorously separate, has been progressively dropped. … Right-of-centre newspapers are now edited ruthlessly to make their readers think what their editors and proprietors want – on immigration, welfare, Europe , tax, political affiliation or whatever. Climate change has joined the list.

There are scientific truths. There is, however imperfectly, a "we". Politics and government can and do make a difference. The rise in global temperatures, and its consequences, is happening. This is a battle of ideas as much as for our civilization. It is a battle that has to be won.

Big business funds effort to discredit climate science

Citing a top UN official an earlier report [6] by Fiona Harvey and Graham Readfearn said:

Big companies are paying contrarians to undermine the work of climate scientists.

The UN official was speaking before the release of a landmark IPCC review of climate science.

Halldór Thorgeirsson, a director who reports to the head of the UN body that governs the on-going high level international climate negotiations, said that scientists would need to be prepared for a counter-blast from skeptics.

"Vested interests are paying for the discrediting of scientists all the time. We need to be ready for that," he said.

According to a draft of the "Summary for Policy Makers" dated June, seen by the Guardian which includes a note saying "do not cite, quote or distribute" says that levels of GHG in the atmosphere are now greater than at any time in the last 800,000 years, based on ice cores and other evidence, and the incidences of extreme rainfall are increasing, with rainfall likely to increase in the north but to decrease in the subtropics.

The real impact of the report – the latest since 2007 and only the fifth such assessment since 1992 – will not be felt until governments meet this year in Poland to discuss a global response to warming, aiming to forge a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which was rejected by the US and which placed no obligations on big developing countries such as China, now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Formerly, the scientific consensus was that temperatures would rise by at least 2C, but in the new report this is likely to be reduced slightly to a 1.5C projected increase at the lowest end of the range. This slight reduction, which scientists stress does not reduce the known dangers of warming, such as more droughts and floods and fiercer storms, has been seized on by some climate skeptics, who see it as evidence that global warming will be less severe than thought.

However, there are no certainties in the report as yet – though drafts have been seen by the Guardian. The final assessment will be subject to the wranglings of climate scientists and government-appointed experts next week.

Skeptics have been lining up to put forward their views that the IPCC's fifth assessment report is flawed. Many of their arguments focus on the recent slowdown in the upward march of global temperatures, attributed by climate experts to the effects of the oceans in absorbing heat and the natural variability of the world's climate systems.

However, scientists point out that ten of the warmest years in the temperature record have occurred in the past decade and a half. There have also been other strong indicators of climate change, including the shrinking of Arctic sea ice - which reached its lowest recorded extent last year and is also diminishing in volume - and the retreat of glaciers around the world.

To those who are in disagreement with climate science, however – even though recent research has found that more than 90% of scientific studies support the finding that climate change is happening as a result of human actions – the remaining areas of uncertainty, such as the role of the oceans in absorbing heat and the role of clouds and human-made aerosols in deflecting the sun's rays from the earth's surface, are a cause to doubt more than a century of climate science. Myron Ebell, director of the centre for energy and environment at the right-leaning US thinktank Competitive Enterprise Institute, and one of the US 's most prominent climate skeptics, told the Guardian: "The science contradicts the modellers' dire predictions. … [G]lobal warming, although it may become a problem some decades in the future, is not a crisis and is highly unlikely to become a crisis. We should be worried that the alarmist establishment continues using junk science to promote disastrous policies that will make the world much poorer and will consign poor people in poor countries to perpetual poverty."

The CEI has in the past received funding from Exxon Mobil, the oil company, and the American Petroleum Institute, Texaco, General Motors and the Koch Family Foundations, controlled by the Koch brothers who made their fortune from fossil fuels.

Major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground

Fiona Harvey's another report [7] said:

World governments must get used to the idea of leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground unexploited and unburned, one of the world's most senior diplomats has said, ahead of a landmark report to be unveiled this Friday by the IPCC.

The former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, is to spearhead a new international push aimed at breaking the climate talks deadlock and silencing sceptics, with a group of senior diplomats and politicians from around the world.

Climate sceptics are "not based in reality" and parts of the business community are "trying to cloud and distort the science", she said, adding that strong political leadership was needed to counter them.

Robinson told the Guardian that governments would have to confront the harsh reality that much of their fossil fuel reserves, and accompanying economic value, would have to be left behind if runaway emissions were not to threaten the climate.

"There is a global limit on a safe level of emissions. That means major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. That has huge implications for economic and social development."

It would mean creating incentives for countries to look at other resources, as well as carbon pricing to penalize fossil fuel use, and most of all "political certainty" coming from global leaders.

She said it was also vital that developing countries should not be put at a disadvantage by this process, as many rich countries have had more opportunity to exploit their fossil resources and have benefited from them over decades. "It must be managed in a fair way. Developing countries must not bear all the burden. We need a robust and fair climate change agreement."

She acknowledged that some countries and many businesses, particularly those with fossil fuel interests, would be hostile to the proposal.

The current economic value of the resources left unused – without taking into account their effects on the climate – is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds. "We are already talking to the business community that wants change, but there is obviously a business community that is trying to cloud and distort the science."

She said going for green growth instead of fossil fuels could create jobs and prosperity, as well as improving health and avoiding the danger that the ravages of global warming could destroy the gains made in lifting developing countries out of poverty.


[1] RTCC, Sept. 25, 2013, “World can still avoid dangerous global warming, says IPCC co-chair”,


[2] theguardian.com, Sept. 24, 2013, “Lord Stern: It would be absurd to underestimate climate change risks”,


[3] Sept. 24, 2013, “Leading climate change economist brands sceptics 'irrational'”,


[4] RTCC, “Leading economist Lord Stern says his profession has built models which vastly underestimate effects of climate change”,


[5] The Observer, Sept. 21, 2013, “To fight climate change, we must trust scientific truth and collective action”, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/21/climate-change-scientific-truth-collective?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

[6] The Guardian, Sept. 20, 2013, “Big business funds effort to discredit climate science, warns UN official”,


[7] The Guardian, Sept. 23, 2013, “Major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, senior diplomat warns”,






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