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IPCC Synthesis Summary: Self Synthesis

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 7:34 PM GMT on November 18, 2007

IPCC Synthesis Summary: Self Synthesis

My blog on Weather Underground started with the release of the first part of the IPCC Report. This week is the release of the final part of it all; the synthesis report. The synthesis report looks across all of the reports, and it condenses and orders the information. Here is the link to the IPCC web site, and here is the link to the report (~7 Mbytes). The report summarizes the science and evidence of climate change, the impacts, and guidance on responses. The IPCC is not simply the voice of scientists, or the voice of one country, or one sector of society. It’s a document that arises out of scientific investigation, but that incorporates the interests and points of view of many communities that are not, first and foremost, anchored in the culture of science.

This process for the most part eliminates speculation, and the statements which are made with “high confidence” and that are labeled as “very likely” are about as close to bullet proof as information gets. While the process eliminates scientific speculation, it also subdues the research that is emerging, but has not reached a level of scientific consensus. There are many, including myself, who feel, therefore, that the message that comes from the IPCC is perhaps “safe” – safe in the sense of certainty that the information is bullet proof.

Writing this blog and reading the comments have been interesting and rewarding. My ultimate interest is advancing away from discussion, from simply education, out of the realm of argument, above the suspicion of hidden agendas, to the ability to develop plans for actions and to pursue those actions. I believe that all elements of society have a vested interest in the problem of climate change, that these elements of society contain communities, and that open community approaches to developing strategies and solutions will be critical to our success.

There are two places where writing this blog has helped my thinking evolve. The first is the role of population and consumption. Population and the consumption of fossil fuel by so many is fundamental to the discussion. And at the core of it all is our belief, our imperative, to consume more and more to sustain the economy or to advance development, to improve the quality of life. Even if one is at the top of the consumption pyramid, there is an imperative to consume more. As a student at a recent lecture of mine asked, “Sometime in 7th grade science, don’t people see this unsustainable?”

I am a person who believes that Bjorn Lomborg has a message that is worth listening to. (Here is a link to a Washington Post article on his book Chill Out.) Lomborg talks of prioritizing climate change relative to other problems facing society, and he weighs advantages and disadvantages of economic development. I don’t always agree with his analysis, and his evaluation of long and short term effects, but I think there is a lot of substance to be drawn from his thoughts. What struck me recently: There is an argument that economic development and education have been the most effective ways to reduce population growth. Therefore, development, followed by population management is at the key of it all. This argument is seductive, but there is the fact that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the result of consumption by a relatively small population. Reduced population does not mean reduced consumption of fossil fuels. The reduction of consumption of energy is a much more difficult, much more fundamental problem than, even, the problem of moving to new sources of energy.

The second place that my thinking has evolved during the writing of this series of blogs has been clarification of the role of climate change in issues such as heat waves and water resources. There is an array of resource stresses that face society. Some of these are linked to large consumption by a small number of people; others are related to too many people for the available resources. Climate change amplifies many of these stresses; climate change is not the fundamental cause of these stresses. Often these problems can be addressed in a way that, in fact, consume more energy, likely fossil fuels, and hence, increase climate change risk.

The relationship of climate change to the array of problems that we face today, a time when many people thrive, and when many people suffer, is not straightforward. Often it appears that continuing to increase the risk to the climate is the way to address the problem at hand. I am certain that this will be the case. We are compelled to intertwine managing our climate, explicitly, with our addressing of these problems. It is not enough to defer the climate change problem until we get to it, until it emerges as the most critical problem. It is not adequate to assume that the climate change problem will be addressed as a consequence of solving, for example, the energy problem. This is a far deeper problem than government agencies, legislation, industrial process, or resource conservation; it is a problem at the very core of our behavior, our imperatives.

Some synthesis of my own ...


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.