Breaking news on climate change

Catastrophic destruction moves from "likely" to "almost certain."

By Andrew Leonard
Published January 26, 2007 4:23PM (EST)

News flash! Climate change: It's for real, and humans are causing it!

What, you say, you believe you may have heard this news somewhere before? Yes, but this time, we really, really mean it.

Rob Metcalfe at Globalisation and the Environment brings us the news this morning that the U.K.'s Observer has obtained a draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to be released officially on Feb. 2.

The IPCC reports are the gold standard in climate science, documents in which the nuance of every word is struggled over and the research of thousands of scientists is compiled together. So when the wording to describe oncoming mayhem and disaster moves from "likely" to "almost certain," then it might just be time to start clearing the winter coats out of your closet and making room for bikinis. Stock up on the sunscreen while you're at it. Oh, and a carbon tax would be nice too.

In a Reuters report, IPCC chairman R.K. Pachauri says, "I hope this report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action as you really can't get a more authentic and a more credible piece of scientific work." He also does a little jig on the tomb of climate skepticism: "I think the skeptics on climate change will continue, but the good news is that their numbers and their effectiveness is on the decline," Pachauri said.

Meanwhile, the Observer sums up the conclusions:

The frequency of devastating storms ... will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a meter; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans [will] become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent ...

And in a specific rebuff to skeptics who still argue natural variation in the Sun's output is the real cause of climate change, the panel says mankind's industrial emissions have had five times more effect on the climate than any fluctuations in solar radiation. We are the masters of our own destruction, in short.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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