Well, it’s day two of the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Aside from flash flooding that killed eight people, here’s what’s making headlines from day one:
The chief economist for the International Energy Agency said Monday that current global energy consumption levels put the Earth on a trajectory to warm by 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100, an outcome he called “a catastrophe for all of us.”
Juliet Eilperin’s story comes just a week after a similar AP story:
WASHINGTON — Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are building up so high, so fast, that some scientists now think the world can no longer limit global warming to the level world leaders have agreed upon as safe.
New figures from the U.N. weather agency Monday showed that the three biggest greenhouse gases not only reached record levels last year but were increasing at an ever-faster rate, despite efforts by many countries to reduce emissions.
Meanwhile, the blogosphere is alive with the sound of controversy. Well, actually, two controversies. But, despite Keith Kloor’s insistence that it reveals a lack of journalistic instincts, I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for ClimateGate 2.0. So back to the controversy I originally had in mind …
Last week, the journal Science published a study concluding that the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate systems to a doubling in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was less than previously thought. The take-home of the press release issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s news service, and of much of the resulting media coverage, was that this is good news because it means that the most extreme global warming scenarios are overestimates. Here’s a taste, from WaPo’s Capital Weather Gang blog:
New research takes some of the most dire global warming projections off the table. A study published last week in the journal Science concludes that the more extreme climate change scenarios, which involve temperature increases of up to 10°F are implausible. Instead, the study finds, we are likely in the midst of a more manageable, but still potentially dangerous, shift in the planet’s climate.
In fact, this study’s projections still warm the planet to the highest levels in human history.
The skeptic blogs seem more interested in ClimateGate 2.0, but rebuttals have started showing up on blogs from the other side of the aisle. Joe Romm has posted an extensive and energetic objection with plenty of links. The two main points I came away with are that
- Many scientists are not convinced by the new analysis, and
- Even if the current analysis stands, it doesn’t take into account things like melting permafrost and other feedback loops that could push temperatures sky-high.
So don’t break out the champagne just yet. Even the authors of the new study are clear that human-caused climate change is real and poses serious threats, the worst of which can only be avoided by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We can hope for the current round of climate talks to be more successful than the past few, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Juliet Eilperin says the real action is at the city, state or national level.