Less than two weeks before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its latest report, two powerful statements from eminent scientists warn that the overwhelming weight of climate science “warrants massive political momentum”.
In one tough statement, a group of 12 prominent scientists – making up the newly established Earth League – question why so many governments are failing to prioritise climate action; given the magnitude of the threat.
They warned that the “body of evidence indicating that our civilisation has already caused significant global warming is overwhelming”, and that business-as-usual – devouring fossil fuels and excessively pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere – has the world on track to experience 4°C of warming this century.
The group calls for aggressive action to stabilise the climate, warning that such high levels of warming could have disastrous consequences for the global community.
The statement said:
Although climate science only tells us what might happen and not what to do about it, we authors feel that this is an unacceptable prospect. Nations go to war, implement mass vaccinations of their populations, and organise expensive insurance and security systems (such as anti-terror measures) to address much fainter threats. However, our societies seem to be willing to impose immense risks on future generations.
The group says the signs of climate change “are there for all to see, including the “melting of Arctic sea ice and the retreat of the overwhelming majority of glaciers worldwide”.
Their statement also highlights the recognition, by leading global institutions, that the debate over the existence of climate change is moot.
Political institutions, including the UN Security Council, international agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, business groups, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and financial institutions, such as the World Bank, all conclude that long-term global well-being is threatened by climate change.
Four prominent UK scientists have added their voices to the fray.
In an editorial for the Times, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Mark Walport, and three of his predecessors, Sir John Beddington, Sir David King and Lord May said:
That humans are emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on an unprecedented scale, and the fundamental physics that carbon dioxide warms the Earth’s atmosphere, are not among these uncertainties. Climate scientists may not be able to quantify the precise impacts of climate change in a specific locality in 50fifty years’ time, but they do know that we are performing a highly risky experiment if we carry on emitting carbon dioxide at the rate we are today.
With the IPCC report likely to show with ever more certainty that human activities are causing global warming, they warn, “the response should not be to shoot the messenger.”
But despite the growing calls in support of the science, one response by a small group of climate contrarians has been just that – shoot the messenger.
Aimed at discrediting the science and undermining the IPCC’s latest assessment report, week’s before it is even released, recent media reports have falsely claimed that global warming forecasts were “wrong” and computer models have overstated warming.
The latest IPCC report is expected to show that climate scientists are now more certain than ever that climate change is being driven by human activities.
This report, which is published on 27 September, will be the most comprehensive review of climate science undertaken to date.
The report – which is still in draft form and due to be discussed by governments before its publication – is expected to “add an exclamation mark on what we already knew” about the dangers of ongoing climate change.
Leaked drafts suggest that based on current fossil fuel emissions and temperature projections, we are set to fail to limit global temperature rise to 2°C – the internationally agreed target.