Coal Tattoo

Climate Sensitivity

The world’s top scientists today issued their latest findings and here’s the news, as summarized by The Associated Press:

Scientists can now say with extreme confidence that human activity is the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the 1950s, a new report by an international scientific group said Friday.

Calling man-made warming “extremely likely,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system.

In its previous assessment, in 2007, the U.N.-sponsored panel said it was “very likely” that global warming was man-made.

It now says the evidence has grown thanks to more and better observations, a clearer understanding of the climate system and improved models to analyze the impact of rising temperatures.

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

You can read today’s report online here, and there are media statements available here and here.  Here’s one quote from the press materials that is particularly important for folks in the coalfields:

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s more from some of the media reports out this morning:

The New York Times says

For the first time, the world’s top climate scientists on Friday formally embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases while warning that it is likely to be exceeded within decades if emissions continue at a brisk pace, underscoring the profound challenge humanity faces in bringing global warming under control.

A panel of experts appointed by the United Nations, unveiling its latest assessment of climate research, reinforced its earlier conclusions that global warming is real, that it is caused primarily if not exclusively by human emissions, and that it is likely to get substantially worse unless efforts to limit those emissions are rapidly accelerated.

— The Guardian reports

World leaders must now respond to an “unequivocal” message from climate scientists and act with policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations secretary-general urged on Friday. “The heat is on. We must act,” said Ban Ki-moon, as he invited world leaders to a special summit next year to forge a global agreement on emissions.

Sweden Climate Change

French Michel Jarraud, left,  Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization, WMO,  and  Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), during the presentation of the U.N. IPCC climate report, in Stockholm,  Friday Sept. 27, 2013.  (AP Photo/ TT News Agency,  Bertil Enevag Ericson)  

— According to the BBC:

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change. On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

The Washington Post’s WonkBlog has a good piece explaining the consistency of the scientific findings over the years on climate change, amplifying the point that none of this is really news to anybody who has been paying attention, and far from demanding fast major changes to respond to a dire threat, society has been mostly ignoring the looming disaster. Andy Revkin, who has covered the issue for many years for The New York Times provided this important take:

To my eye, perhaps the most important line in the summary of the new report on global warming science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is this:

By the mid-21st century the magnitudes of the projected changes are substantially affected by the choice of emissions scenario.

For decades to come, climate trajectories — up or down — will be shaped most by natural variability in the system (as with the recent plateau in temperatures). But humanity, by acting in ways that blunt emissions of greenhouse gases, can significantly affect the rate of warming and other related conditions from mid century onward. That’s a time scale that people can reasonably understand. Energy and environmental policies being considered now can matter not just to great grandchildren, but to many global citizens alive today.

Given these findings, what are West Virginia’s political leaders doing? Well, I’ve asked a number of top elected officials for responses to the IPCC’s latest report — and I’ll let you know what, if anything, they have to say — but keep in mind that just yesterday, these was what most of our elected officials were doing:

On the grounds of the U.S. Capitol this morning, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall voiced his strenuous opposition to new EPA rules that will effectively prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants, labeling the regulations as “shortsighted, ill-conceived and illogical”. Rahall was joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Representatives Ed Whitfield, Hal Rogers, Shelley Moore Capito and other lawmakers from coal-producing states in denouncing these regulations and warning of their harmful economic consequences.

“This Administration cannot continue to boast of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, while its EPA works to undo one of those key energy sources — abundant, affordable domestic coal,” said Rahall. “You can’t retool America’s energy sector overnight without threatening our economy and our security.”