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UN climate report will not sway US deniers: experts
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 21, 2013

Climate: Growing certainties on warming and human role
Paris (AFP) Sept 21, 2013 - Over the past 23 years, UN scientists have issued progressively stronger assertions about climate change.

They have moved from a sketchy warning that heat-trapping carbon gases emitted by fossil fuels will cause a "greenhouse" effect to the conviction that this effect is now having an impact on Earth's climate.

Following are extracts from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change's assessment reports, the latest of which will be published from Friday.

First Assessment Report (1990)

"... emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases...

"These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface."

Second Assessment Report (1995)

"Most of these studies have detected a significant change and show that the observed warming trend is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin...

"... the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.

"... the average rate of warming [in projections for the 21st century] would probably be greater than any seen in the last 10,000 years, but the actual annual to decadal changes would include considerable natural variability."

Third Assessment Report (2001)

"There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.

"... the projected rate of warming is much larger than the observed changes during the 20th century and is very likely to be without precedent during at least the last 10,000 years, based on paleoclimate data."

The report said the global average temperature had risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1901 and 2000.

Human activity was "likely" to be the cause of warming, a term meaning a probability of more than 66 percent.

Fourth Assessment Report (2007)

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

"Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse gas concentrations."

The report said that warming over the previous 100 years was 0.74 C (1.33 F), and 11 of the previous 12 years had been the warmest on record.

Human activity was "very likely" the cause of warming, meaning a probability of more than 90 percent.

Fifth Assessment Report (draft version seen by AFP)

"In the northern hemisphere, the period 1983-2012 was very likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 800 years and likely the warmest period of the last 1,400 years.

"....Greenhouse gases contributed a global mean surface warming likely to be in the range of 0.5-1.3 C [0.9-2.3 F] over the period 1951-2010."

"...There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century."

Human activity was "extremely likely" to be the cause of this warming, meaning between 95 and 100 percent probability.

The draft attributes an observed slowing in warming from 1998 to 2012 -- a phenomenon cited by skeptics as evidence that warming is not man-made -- to a temporary cooling cycle in the weather system and lower-than-expected solar activity.

Temperatures since 1901 have risen by 0.89 C (1.6 F), it says.

Additional warming this century is estimated to range from 1.0 to 3.7 C (1.8-6.6 F), and sea level rise from 40 to 62 centimetres (16-24.8 inches), according to four projections based on how much carbon is emitted.

The upcoming UN report on climate change is not likely to rattle US deniers of global warming who hold sway in the halls of power, experts say.

A hefty analysis of the latest science on global climate change, the report is packed with recommendations for policymakers.

It will be released at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next week, though most Republicans in the US government are expected to dismiss it outright.

"The IPCC report will help for the observers and the public to understand where the majority of the scientists' opinion stands," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"But I don't think it will change the mind of the hard core deniers."

Meyer added: "We don't call them skeptics, because they are not putting forward alternatives ideas and having them tested in a peer review journals. They basically deny this problem."

Climate skeptics and deniers dominate the House of Representatives, but Meyer said some legislators admit privately that the science is correct and that global warming is being exacerbated by fossil fuel use.

"But they cannot say it because they will be challenged in the primary (elections in 2014) by the Tea Party," the ultraconservative wing of the Republican party.

They "say what they have to say to get reelected," Meyer told AFP.

Public opinion polls have shown that an increasing number of Americans believe climate change is real.

According to a Pew research poll this spring, 69 percent of Americans, a 12 point hike over 2009, believe there are strong indications the planet is getting warmer.

However, these surveys have also shown that a just a third of the US public thinks climate change is a serious problem..

Surveys also show a stark partisan divide, with 50-58 percent of Republicans saying they do not believe that climate change is happening.

Americans' views on climate change are closely linked to their political orientations; those who doubt the theory of evolution and believe in creationism are often climate skeptics or deniers, according to Joe Casola, an expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions in Washington.

"With the IPCC report, the older arguments -- that climate change does not exist or CO2 is not responsible for warming or the humans are not responsible -- are harder and harder to make," he said.

"I think there was a subtle shift in the last few months to focusing more on this kind of future tense that warming will not be that bad," he added.

"It will be interesting to see if the old arguments come back, or if they shift to the new ones."

According to Meyer, the Republican thinking on climate science has made it harder for the US political system to enact alternative policies to slow the pollution from cheap fossil fuels.

The movement to deny climate change is bolstered by influence groups that oppose regulations that would limit CO2 emissions, the main greenhouse gas, which the United States emits more of than any other country but China.

According to Greenpeace, these lobbies have funnelled nearly $150 million to more than 80 conservative groups from 2002 to 2011. Among the largest donors are billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, as well as oil giant ExxonMobil.

"Their intent is to intimidate scientists and, indeed, to get them to second guess themselves," said Michael Mann, professor at Penn State University and author of "The Hockey Stick and the Climate War."

"In that sense, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by industry front groups and individuals like the Koch Brothers to attack and intimidate the scientists have partly achieved their goal," Mann told AFP.




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