What the heck is the IPCC and why does its report on climate change matter?

So I have discovered this great online learning tool called wildflowers Coursera. There are a number of different courses you can take that are offered by universities and I am currently enrolled in a course on Climate Change. This is also a credit course but because it deals with science I wanted to do the free online course first and then consider taking it for credit. For those of you who are life learners, I would highly encourage you to check it out. It’s extremely well done.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail recently by Andrew Weaver with the headline – “Now that climate change is beyond doubt, focus on solving it

One of my objectives in taking a course on Climate Change is that I want to understand the global policy initiatives and the science more clearly so I can make more informed decisions on a course of action or activism.

“Climate Change is Beyond Doubt”

So back to the headline – ‘Climate change is beyond doubt’- where does this consensus come from? Well, it comes from the IPCC report that was recently released that shows that scientists are 95-100 per cent certain that humans are causing global warming. Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

So what is the IPCC and why does what they report matter?

The IPCC stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was created in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. This body does not conduct research but rather reviews current science, studies and papers to provide an objective assessment to policy and decision-makers.

IPCC is made up of three working groups:
– the first group addresses the science of climate change
– the second climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability including effects on human health and the environment
– the third group addresses climate mitigation

Each group draws on a wide range of scientists that are selected by a process ensuring that a broad range of disciplines are represented.

The IPCC is one of the largest scientific collaborations ever undertaken. These scientists meet regularly and collaborate to provide the most accurate data possible for governments and governing bodies to draw on. If criticisms are leveled at the body, it’s that they are too conservative in their views.

Key findings (via Globe and Mail) m this report which was released in September 2013 are:

Global warming is “unequivocal,” and since the 1950’s it’s “extremely likely” that human activities have been the dominant cause of the temperature rise.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40 per cent increase in cabond-dioxide concentrations since the industrial revolution.

Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C, or 0.5-8.6 F, by the end of the century, depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.

Most aspects of climate change will continue for many centuries even if carbon-dioxide emissions are stopped.

Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82 centimetres by the end of the century.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass over the past two decades. Glaciers have continued to melt almost all over the world. Arctic sea ice has shrunk and spring snow cover has continued to decrease, and it is “very likely” that this will continue.

It’s “virtually certain” that the upper ocean has warmed from 1971 to 2010. The ocean will continue to warm this century, with heat penetrating from the surface to the deep ocean.

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2 Comments

Filed under Sustainability

2 responses to “What the heck is the IPCC and why does its report on climate change matter?

  1. “I’ve never cried because of a science report before.”
    And another reason why we should aspire to be vegetarian.
    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/30/one_meteorologist_explains_why_he_wont_fly_again/

  2. In regard to climate change scientists and governments, the problem is, those with expertise have no power, and those with power have no expertise.

    Greed will always blind, and governments are easily swayed by blind power.

    Governments are voted in by the people to govern “for” the people, not “for” big business.

    This cartoon refers; http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/editorial-political/#jp-carousel-775

    Cheers

    Mick

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