Climate Photo of the Week
New IPCC climate science report due out September 27. Scientists expected to say sea level rise may reach 3 feet this century and that it's 95 percent certain that humans cause warming.
The United Nations' body of climate scientists will confirm the results of more than five years of current research into the causes and affects of global warming, saying that there is almost no chance the rising Earth temperatures were natural and that sea level rise will accelerate this century to as much as one meter higher. The near-final draft version of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment on science was leaked to Reuters and the NY Times this week, a month before its scheduled official release. Final UN science meetings in September may tweak some of the wording, but the conclusions almost certainly will remain.
Major points of this, the Fifth UN assessment since 1988, include (as reported by Reuters and the NY TImes):
• "Odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause" of the rise in atmospheric temperatures during the 20th C and into the current decades. The main reason is the burning of fossil fuels.
• Science has "high confidence" that warming has "warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century."
• Doubling of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases compared with pre-industrial times -- a level of about 560 parts per million, which could be reached after mid-century at current emission rates -- might raise air temperatures from 2.7 to well over 5 degrees F. This reflects new studies predicting a possible lower rate of effect of the CO2, but most scientists continue to warn of much greater heat by century's end.
• If the world manages to sharply limit greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, temperatures will probably increase less and sea level rise this century could be limited to only about 10 inches.
• Local and regional predictions -- the location and strength of individual storms, droughts, and rainfall -- will remain very difficult, according to the report. This will make it hard for leaders and communities to prepare for the effects and make increasing climate disasters more probable.
Temperatures averaging 3-5 degrees warmer across the globe will mean that many continental locations will be much warmer than that, according to what is known about the distribution of heat across the Earth. Sea levels increasing more than four times the 20th C amount will create a strong challenge to the world's coasts and port cities where about a billion people live. The New York City region, for example, suffered huge losses from Hurricane Sandy, in part because the storm surge coincided with a high tide. Low lying coastal communities in Brooklyn and Queens, and those working to restore the ecology in Jamaica Bay and other crucial wetlands, will face increasing threats.
More than 830 scientists are involved in working groups writing the IPCC reports. The report that was leaked is from Working Group I, assessing the scientific literature on the physical science basis of climate change. Working Group II assesses literature on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and Working Group III assesses literature on the mitigation of climate change. Reports will be released from September 2014 through October 2014. The IPCC does not do original research, but its overview guides the actions of the United Nations and hundreds of nations who are signatories to the UN climate convention (UNFCCC). Many other groups of scientists, such as in national science academies, NOAA, the World Meteorological Organization and the American Geophysical Union have released statements on the severity and urgency of global warming.
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