Just another climate warning?

Greater urgency evident in latest report

By The Mercury

Folks who are convinced that climate change is a hoax probably wouldn’t be impressed, but the most recent report on climate change is worth the attention of the world’s leaders and billions of this planet’s less powerful inhabitants.

Getting much of the attention from the International Panel on Climate Change’s summary, released Friday, is that the panel now says it’s “extremely likely” that global warning is primarily man-made. That’s the IPCC’s strongest language yet. The panel, sponsored by the United Nations, called man-made global warming only “very likely” in its 2007 assessment. This assessment is the IPCC’s fifth, and more than confirmed the first one, in 1990. The 1990 report expressed “concern that human activities may be inadvertently changing the climate of the globe through the enhanced greenhouse effect.”

The latest report is considerably more urgent, largely because the world’s nations have been unable or unwilling to confront the problem.

The summary said that more than half of global warming since 1950 is caused by humans, primarily from the effects of carbon dioxide and other gases emitted from burning fossil fuels. What’s more, these effects will continue as long as the emissions continue.

“Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased.” So said Qin Dahe, co-chair of the group that wrote the report.

Scientists don’t quite ignore a slowdown in warming in the past 15 years, but say that such spells don’t reflect long-term trends. That won’t satisfy skeptics who contend that the several recent generations of global warming are themselves a short-term trend considering the age of the Earth. Scientists said it’s possible that instead of greenhouse gases warming the air, much of the effects are going into the oceans, which have continued to get warmer.

The apparent contradiction complicates the work of climate scientists, who understandably worry that nations’ sense of urgency will suffer.

Not surprisingly, the rise not just in temperature of the oceans but also of sea levels remains of great concern. The latest IPCC report raised its projections for the rise in sea levels by the end of the century from a minimum of 7 inches and a maximum of 23 inches to 10 to 32 inches.

The least that ought to do is get the attention of the millions of people in this country and vast numbers worldwide who live on or near a seacoast.

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