Thursday, February 01, 2007

Climate Change 2007
The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report is coming out tomorrow, February 2nd. Wunder Blog has a guest post by Richard Rood of the University of Michigan which promotes the IPCC for the weather nerd crowd. As Rood notes, the IPCC is not a research organization although it does receive substantial support from the United Nations. Rather, the panel is selected by the "community" of climate scientists and aims to synthesize research performed and reported by scientists from all over the world.

The reports are written by experts drawn from around the world, selected to assure the representation of the members of the United Nations. Draft reports are then reviewed by experts who were not authors of the report. Then there is review by government officials involved in policy making. All told, there are more than 1000 contributing authors, and more than 2000 independent reviewers. All comments are considered in the revisions that lead to the production of the final document. The time commitment is enormous, and the result is a document which is based on the facts of observation and predictions which have been scrutinized to the highest level possible.

Although no official documents have appeared on the IPCC webpage as of 6 AM EST (11 AM GMT), participating scientists have leaked some of their collective findings to reporters for the BBC, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, and other news outlets. By all acounts, the report will state a 90% certainty that human activities are to blame for global warming over the past 50 years. According to the Financial Times piece, warming of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade is forecasted for the next 20 years.

The new IPCC report is unlikely to convince contrarian scientists, who continue to be featured in political hearings and on talk shows like Larry King Live. It is particularly disturbing to read that the American Enterprise Institute, funded by oil companies, has already made a special cash offer of $10,000 per publication to scientists who criticize the IPCC. The report will probably relate the recent increase in the intensity of tropical storms to global warming, a somewhat controversial position that deviates from another recent consensus statement by the World Meteorological Organization.

Addendum 2/3/06: The first volume of the "AR4" (4th Assessment Report) addresses the "physical science basis" for climate change. All that is out at this point is an outline of the chapters, a summary for policymakers, and a curious video of yesterday's press conference. The "video" has the audio of the press conference with some powerpoint slides that are too small to read and out of synch with what the speakers are talking about. I have posted two tables from the summary. Table SPM-1 is an informative summary of climate trends with an assessment of the role played by anthropogenic forcing. Table SPM-0 is supposed to present data supporting a rate of sea level rise from 1993-2003 which is nearly three times greater than that from 1961-2003. Unfortunately, there are serious errors in the data which are being discussed and debated on the Real Climate blog.

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