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IPCC 4th AR Summary now avaiable
February 2, 2007 9:06 AM   Subscribe

IPCC's 4th Assesment Report Summary for Policymakers [PDF] is now avaiable online, offering a necessarily simplified view of the scientific finding supporting the idea that global warming isn't just the theory of some lone scientist. Certain think-thanks are now allegedly attempting to finance disconfirming opinion. Previously on Meta.
posted by elpapacito (41 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'm just going to go on record as saying I believe climate change is real and given the choice of putting a bunch of crap in the air or trying to put less crap in the air, we should try to put less crap in the air.

Of course, I have a car with a V8. But I drive it in 6th as much as possible.

Sigh. I feel like part of the problem this morning.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:22 AM on February 2, 2007

Surely this will convince the doubters ...
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2007

I heard a bit about this on the news today; sounds like they are revising the sea level increase estimates substantially - up to about a maximum of 2 feet. Here's a word on sea level:

The projections include a contribution due to increased ice flow from Greenland and Antarctica at the rates observed for 1993-2003, but these flow rates could increase or decrease in the future. For example, if this contribution
were to grow linearly with global average temperature change, the upper ranges of sea level rise for SRES
scenarios shown in Table SPM-2 would increase by 0.1 m to 0.2 m.

The report goes on to say that it is not possible to put an upper limit on sea level rises because of the paucity of data from which to construct models. In any case, it boils down to bad news for the Netherlands, Florida, Louisiana, etc.
posted by Mister_A at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2007

In any case, it boils down to bad news for the Netherlands, Florida, Louisiana, etc.

Screw them. Aren't they watching Fox News? Don't they know global warming isn't real?
posted by kgasmart at 9:40 AM on February 2, 2007

There will be "doubters" (i.e., people paid to express doubt about global warming) as long as two things are true:

--businesses exist which would make more money with fewer environmental regulations (forever)
--it is even slightly socially acceptable to express doubt about global warming (a long time, but probably not forever)

So, up until the point when being a global warming doubter is completely stigmatized and anathema, there will be global warming doubters. Society is not anywhere near that point right now, and won't be until most people are suffering adverse consequences from global warming.
posted by jellicle at 9:40 AM on February 2, 2007

From the Guardian link: Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

AEI's role in environmental and foreign policy isn't getting as much critical scrutiny as it deserves.
posted by peeedro at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2007

We should figure out a way to make those that delay action on countering global warming pay for any resulting increased costs in dealing with the situation. Right now there are no direct consequences, that should be addressed. If they are right, the should be rewarded and if they are wrong they (or their financial backers) should be appropriately penalized.
posted by bhouston at 10:04 AM on February 2, 2007

The problem, bhouston, is that there probably are consequences, but it is impossible to say "this particular storm, or tornado, or drought, or flood, or heat wave is the direct result of global warming."

The reason I say this is that it sure seems as though droughts, heat waves, floods, storms (hurricane/typhoon and the like) are on the rise, with increasingly dire consequences, but the current tactic of the AEI, etc. is to dismiss it as normal variability. Chance.
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2007

bhouston: "We should figure out a way to make those that delay action on countering global warming pay for any resulting increased costs in dealing with the situation."

This is the hardest thing about global warming: it's so huge, and so formless, that it's hard to know what the actual results will be. So who do we penalize now? People who are "delaying action on countering global warming" are really just "going about their lives as usual as they have for decades." It's hard to find the moral imperative, but we all know, when we really look at it, that we're all in danger.

It would be nice if there was a big evil corporate polluter out there that we could just fine huge sums of money. There might be a few of them. But when it comes down, what global warming is going to mean is this: a hell of a lot of people are going to lose their jobs, a lot of people are going to have to suffer, and they're going to have to do it soon and willingly in order to avoid more suffering.

Given that our government is a democracy, I have a hard time imagining any real action being taken on global warming. That's the scary part. People are not naturally far-sighted. What they need is someone to force them to comply-- and our government isn't good at forcing voters to do anything.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2007

It would be nice if there was a big evil corporate polluter out there that we could just fine huge sums of money

ExxonMobil is practically beyond a shadow of a doubt the biggest offender here. They give more to fund climate change skepticism than any other oil company. And, they also just posted record annual profits.

So, if we're going to be fining someone for huge sums of money, I vote it be them.

Of course, good luck getting them to actually pay it... they still haven't paid the fines that were assessed against them for the Valdez oil spill over a decade ago...
posted by crackingdes at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2007

ExxonMobil is practically beyond a shadow of a doubt the biggest offender here. They give more to fund climate change skepticism than any other oil company. And, they also just posted record annual profits.

That's not the point. Fine, Exxon is teh evil. It "funds skepticism". And yes, it raked in a lot of cash lately. So what?
Is there ExxonMobil stormtroopers that make everyone move to the suburbs and then drive huge SUV's tens of miles every day down dry, paved and marked roads to work and to the malls? Does ExxonMobil make people buy loads of useless shit that gets thrown away hardly unpacked? So you fine it, even make it go out of business. You really think that people will thank you for it? That they will gladly hop on bikes, since those SUV's are now useless for the lack of open gas stations?
Exxon is not the offender. WE are. Exxon just sells us what we want.
posted by c13 at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2007

The TV news over here in the Netherlands mentioned about 0.8 meter to a meter increase in sea level in the next century, and quotes from the government agencies dealing with this kind of stuff saying we can handle up to a meter per century without flooding the country if we invest an amount of money you could say is in the 'affordable' category.

But I'd prefer that money going to my enjoyment of retirement in a few decades, so my vote goes to putting less crap in the air as well.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2007

Exxon is not the offender. WE are. Exxon just sells us what we want.

But then that's the problem, isn't it? Never has a society been made so fat and happy, so fat and happy that all it wants is to hear fairy tales about how the things that are happening, obvious to everyone, aren't really happening, and we can just go about our happy motoring life for the rest of our days, lalalalala.

I have two small kids, and the idea that they are going to be screwed because we can't bring ourselves to address this in any meaningful way now - or to even, as a society, admit that it's the real deal - just kills me.
posted by kgasmart at 11:00 AM on February 2, 2007

Exxon is not the offender. WE are. Exxon just sells us
what we want.

c13, of course you're right.

Of course, the ideal outcome is that normal people get concerned about the environment, that normal people give up their vehicles and start conserving and all that (I speak as someone who doesn't own a vehicle and I hope I never have to). But for that to happen, first normal average people would have to start making an effort to be really informed on things. They would have to start reading 21-page policy reports, and to actually understand those reports they would probably have to understand scientific principles that most people don't learn unless they take a few college science courses.

That's not going to happen.

ExxonMobil is taking advantage of people's ignorance by funding bunk science and telling average people that they don't have to worry about shit. It is to some extent people's fault that they aren't more intellectually discriminating and don't spend more time actually researching stuff, but we can't fine people for being dumb.

We CAN fine a single entity for intentionally misleading the dummies.

What ExxonMobil is doing seems to me to be equivalent to what cigarette companies were doing a while back trying to convince people that cigarettes wouldn't hurt them. No, Phillip Morris did not send stormtroopers into people's houses to make them smoke cigarettes at gunpoint! But wouldn't you agree that the lung cancer epidemic is to a some degree their fault? And isn't it nice now that they've been forced to take some corporate responsibility to quit lying to people so that not nearly as many people have started smoking in recent years?

To me, these two examples seem the same. Both the corporations and the general public share responsibility, but the corporations are much easier to police.
posted by crackingdes at 11:01 AM on February 2, 2007

Yep, less crap in the air is a good thing all round. More walking/riding is also a good thing. The specifics aren't even that important anymore. Nothing good will come of it. Silver lining scenarios (eg lower heating bills) are like pointing out that you can finally lose those 30 lbs. through the magic of cancer.

And let's not forget there were 43,443 US traffic fatalities in 2005.
posted by Mister_A at 11:06 AM on February 2, 2007

Well, I do agree that it would feel good, don't get me wrong. And they do deserve it. But what makes me so pessimistic about the future is the fact that no one will willingly give up anything. I just don't see it happening. We may be multicellular, but we behave exactly like the bacteria in a rich culture medium, with frightenly similar results so far. And we know what the growth shape of bacteria looks like.
posted by c13 at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2007

But what makes me so pessimistic about the future is the fact that no one will willingly give up anything

$4 surtax on gas.

Free mass transit.

Problem solved.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2007

George Carlin said it first. Global Warming/Pollution whatever is not a problem for the planet. It's a problem for us. The planet it fine. It's not going anywhere. It's been here through eons of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear testing, and all sorts of other amazingly catastrophic events. And it's lasted through every one of them, barely a scratch. The planet is fine, it's not going anywhere: we are.

I also love his theory on plastic.
posted by daq at 11:45 AM on February 2, 2007

P.S. Also, I apologize if I came off sounding kind of harsh in my earlier post, calling people "dummies" and whatnot. I'd just come away from reading comments from the Average Joe over on the BBC Message Board, which tends to make me kind of grumpy. One guy cited Michael Chrichton as his reason for not believing in global warming. :(
posted by crackingdes at 11:48 AM on February 2, 2007

Can you imagine what we could have done with $300 billion domestically? These guys are light rail advocates so take their numbers with a grain of salt, but let's assume light rail capital cost is about $40 million per mile (high end of their estimate), incl. rail cars, stations, maintenance yards, etc.

That's 7,500 miles of light rail. That's a lot of people moving capacity.

Of course I'd want to break off a big chunk of that for education, but still, we could have done some amazing things—reduced our need for foreign oil, reduced pollution, and begun mitigating the effects of global warming).

Look what we got instead.
posted by Mister_A at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2007

That $300 billion I'm talking about is the price tag for the liberation of Iraq, of course.
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2007

no one will willingly give up anything

Hmm. That's a bold statement. I guess I mostly agree, but I'm a little more optimistic. I have very little hope for us now, but I *believe* that your claim is ultimately untrue. I believe we do have that potential. Whether we get there before we're gone is questionable.

Can you imagine what we could have done with $300 billion domestically?

Can you imagine how much we (western consumers) spend on cheap shit from China? Can you imagine how much carbon is released producing and shipping that cheap shit? I'm basically with c13. If we wanted to prioritize the protection of the environment, we would.

$4 surtax on gas.

Free mass transit.

Problem solved.

Good luck getting elected with that platform. Maybe in Vermont except, oops, it's not an urban setting, so mass transit is nigh impossible, but I'm assuming you were being sarcastic anyway.

It sucks to be so cynical and pessimistic, but that's such a depressing report.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on February 2, 2007

If we wanted to prioritize the protection of the environment, we would.

Meaning, if we had that $300 million domestically, it wouldn't be spent on a national light rail network.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2007

We need to wait until all the facts are in!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2007

a hell of a lot of people are going to lose their jobs, a lot of people are going to have to suffer, and they're going to have to do it soon and willingly in order to avoid more suffering.

Where does this idea come from? How is anyone going to lose their jobs? Other then people working in the Oil industry, who should be able find new work, I would imagine. Not like they can't just go work for bio fuel companies.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2007

For a guy named mrgrimm, you're a real downer.


Anyway, of course we would not spend $300 billion over 4 years on light rail. I was just making the point that we (the USians) collectively have access to oodles of resources. We have chosen to squander them in the worst possible way, but only because our leaders inspired wide support from the general public. This inspiration came in the form of veiled threats, lies, half-truths, and cynical emotional manipulation, but it worked. How easily we gave away so much to gain so little.

I remain hopeful that we can now be inspired to do the right thing and support candidates who favor taking the first steps towards some kind of sane environmental policy. My hope is not completely unjustified, either - environmental concern or activism it is no longer the mark of a fringe candidate; the environment is front and center in the national discourse, and candidates must present at least the trappings of an environmental policy to succeed on a national level.
posted by Mister_A at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2007

Anyway, of course we would not spend $300 billion over 4 years on light rail

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2007

posted by Mister_A at 1:05 PM on February 2, 2007

Look what we got instead.

You didn't get a lousy tshirt either. Yet car/SUV/uname it is so much avaiable, at one's whim, it is infinitely more sexy then multiple user, limited coverage transports..

...unless one gives a glance at Paris Metro Map.

I used it more then a few times, I believe no point in Paris is more then 500 meters away from a metro station ?

That's excellent, beats the cost of car anytime (gas+insurance+repair+pollution+stress+parking+risk of injury, 40k dead an year not counting injuries)..and combine that with car sharing or , even better, cheap taxi and it becomes quite interesting.

Of course there are also negatives : must wait for next train, people smell funny at times (but its a ventilation problem more then an hygiene one) and it's a favourite terrorist target, but what crowded place isn't ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:09 PM on February 2, 2007

The FPP links to the 21-page summary of Working Group I: "The Physical Science Basis". I'm having trouble finding it, or the full non-summary version, on the IPCC website. Is this all that is available as of today?
posted by stbalbach at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2007

Right on papa, also if there were fewer cars on the road, it would be much safer for cyclists. Also, I have no beef with people riding motor scooters and such to cover longer distances; they were very common in Paris when I spent several weeks there in 2001. And those SmartCars too, lol.

I was also in Strassbourg, which is not a huge city by any means, and they had this great, clean, modern, convenient light rail system. You would buy a ticket and then you could ride anywhere you wanted for a set period of time, I think it was 2 or 3 hours. Long enough to find a bar, drink a little too much, and then return home anyway.
posted by Mister_A at 1:12 PM on February 2, 2007

Sorry for saying also so much there.
posted by Mister_A at 1:13 PM on February 2, 2007

From the second link: Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist (emphasis mine). I like the guardian and all, and I find these guys disgusting, but I wonder about using that term. I think the danger is that it allows someone to claim that they are the victim of bias in science.

It's just one article, but I wonder about the rhetoric. Then again, maybe we do need to start demonizing the oposition. It's been done to us enough. (eg Fox News, Michael Crichton)
posted by Hactar at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2007

only the Summary for Policy Makers is available today. Each of the chapters together with its own Executive Summary from Working Group I will be available end of April (maybe later). There is an explanation in realclimate today:
Finally, a few people have asked why the SPM is being released now while the main report is not due to be published for a couple of months. There are a number of reasons - firstly, the Paris meeting has been such a public affair that holding back the SPM until the main report is ready is probably pointless. For the main report itself, it had not yet been proof-read, and there has not yet been enough time to include observational data up until the end of 2006. One final point is that improvements in the clarity of the language from the SPM should be propagated back to the individual chapters in order to remove any superficial ambiguity. The science content will not change.
Basically, they did not have time to complete the Chapters but were pressured to meet the deadline of Feb 2. This sucks lemons in my opinion because there are unreferenced claims in the report and we will eventually have to wait till April to find out what they based their wording on.
posted by carmina at 1:42 PM on February 2, 2007

OK, to elaborate a little more, if I may, the IPCC Assessment process has very strict guidelines and time schedule. Theoretically, if everything went as planned, the lead authors of each chapter should have collected, analyzed and evaluated all the scientific evidence that was published up until Dec 2005. Sealed it, re-wrote it clearly, then submit it to other groups (such as governements and environmental agencies) who would comment on it and then publish it by Feb 2007. Mind you, this is a process which is very well thought out, in my opinion, because it seeks to eliminate as much objection as possible. Well, that is OK, except that there is already a great deal of new evidence both observational (the GRACE satellite system -major tool in sea level estimates went up just in spring of 2006) but also modelling work which gives a lot of new information, fills in gaps etc. Therefore the IPCC-AR4 would be vastly out-of-date by the time it came out that it would make it less authoritative (for lack of better word).
posted by carmina at 2:06 PM on February 2, 2007

At the risk of being quite simplistic, I do not understand why all car makers could not be required to develop models that have say 250 cc engines. That can go maybe 75mph max. I gues you could look at the transition, (eg accidents with full size cars) but you could also give folks a tax break to compensate for the loss of their car. Phase it in over 3-5 years and in 20 years you'll have a great deal less emissions and a lot less oil usage. Foriegn car makers would need to comply if they want to sell in the US or other adopters of this approach, which is a strong incentive. Work politically to have Britain, Italy, France, Germany, and Japan take similar steps. I don't think that its actually that hard to envision solutions that solve the environmental and economic problems. Its just getting around the whole 'freedom of choice' thing and actually doing it - its more philosophical.

Better yet, have I ever told you about my personal flyer idea....
posted by sfts2 at 2:14 PM on February 2, 2007

delmoi, elpapacito, mrgrimm,
But it's really not that simple. First, it's not just the gas companies that would be affected. EVERYTHING we do gives off carbon, from manufacturing computer chips to plastics to simply farming cows. koeselitz is right, it's not just some evil cabal of oil moguls that are fucking us all over. Even if we decided to focus on taxing oil, everything else down the line that uses energy shoots up in price, and yes, that means massive job loss. Cost of fuel for trucks transporting food to the markets triples? Food prices goes up, etc.
And it's not just evil Western consumerism. Yes, we buy products from China, but remember that the reverse of this is that the Chinese make products for us. What happens to economies that are just now developing, however haphazardly? Do we just say, "Sorry, we'd like to help you but we've given up buying stuff, so you'll have to stay fucked forever." Not just China, but India, Africa, South America, etc. These growing markets need people to sell to. It's a very thorny issue, and it's hard to tell billions of people that they didn't jump on the wagon fast enough so they've lost the game and have to live in desperate poverty.
Finally, mass transit is lovely, but the problem is not everywhere is Paris. Paris has had over a century to develop that kind of transist system, but what about a nation like the US, with a few large population centers but also a huge population spread out over a huge area? What would it cost to put a rail station in every town everywhere in the US? Mass transit is good for the cities, and I strongly support that, but it's not workable everywhere.
I'm not trying to be a total downer, I just think a lot of what we're seeing in this thread is why some people are just so against environmentalism despite the facts. They hear that we just won't change because we're lazy (that's obviously why we drive cars), we're wasteful (it's why we buy stuff), and we're greedy (which is why we just can't give stuff up). In reality, these are hugely complicated issues, and making changes involves juggling a number of different concerns. I think if the problems were presented this way, instead of the oddly moralistic and mocking tone you often get, it would be a lot easier for people to swallow.
Yes, you're right. Mankind is changing the environment. But it's not enough to be right any more, you have to get people to agree with you to do something, and to do that, how the message is delivered is as important as the message itself. You don't want self-satisfaction, you want real change.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2007

What would it cost to put a rail station in every town everywhere in the US?

$5M * 10,000 = $50B, or what, one year of OIF.

The issue is simply leadership. The Invisible Hand (PBUI) won't get us there; it requires political will. Good thing we have this thing called GOVERNMENT that is supposed to do this sort of thing.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2007

Sangermaine : of course it is a multifaceted problem, an economical and financial one and nobody here is proposing a single solution , a one change that will provoke a magic chain reaction, that's highly unlikely. Nor is mass transit a panacea.

But some people choose to read : because it is a big problem with many ramifications, it shouldn't be addressed without _first_ knowing _all_ the most likely consequences ; that's unrealistic as well.

Yet before one set to actually solve a problem, one must first realize and acknowledge the problem actually exists. Indeed being lazy, wasteful and greedy is exactly what prevents many from acknowledging the problem exists AT ALL.

After all, who cares ? I will be long dead before the ice is melted or something really bad affects me. But let's look at a closer future:

1. rising price of oil : a rising demand is assumed and probably true , which commands huge profit for a while at least until actual production is increased, IF it is increased.

2. demand for increase fuel efficiency : takes quite a while to materialize and could be as well the very engine of an _increase_ in demand : imagine the billions chinese wanting a car, but having expensive fue; a car that consumes half of today is introduced , that will make many billions enter the market for a car.

Now reshaping an economy to
a. reduce absolute level of consumption
b. replace with other resources, partly renevable
c. reduce indesiderable emission
d. while maintaining a "rich" lifestyle

is an awe inspiring task. Better start 30-40 years in advance.
posted by elpapacito at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2007

II think we're agreeing. I'm talking more about how to sell it to the people who haven't been convinced yet. There's a segment of the population that will never be convinced, even if Colorado were underwater. These people are a lost cause, and will never change their mnd. But then there are the people that are simply misinformed, or stubborn, or whatever, but can be swayed. I'm saying to get these people behind us, we probably should tone down the moralism of our message. Heywood Mogroot is right: politics must play a part. We're a democracy, and that means we need to get votes on our side, and that means changing minds. Exxon knows this, and so it plays its games. But we can do this too, except we're not playing games, we're spreading the truth. We just need to sell it better so that the political will can be generated to do something. Now is the perfect time to do it: global warming is in the spotlight, even the President is talking about it. The ideas can't be swiped aside as "those crazy environmentalists at it again" anymore; there's too much momentum. The first step toward a solution is getting the people to fight for it. Which is why I think that, in the interest of changing minds, we should try to frame things in ways people will find easier to accept. "You're all fat, greedy, lazy bastards" doesn't seem to help much.
We need messages like what kgasmart said: that this is about not our future, but our children. That can be a powerful message if done right. People understand that on an emotional level.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2007

I'm saying to get these people behind us, we probably should tone down the moralism of our message

My understanding of morals is that of "set of widely held rules" one among the others being "do not be an hypocrite".

Now clearly it is a despised behavior _also_ because it is widely held , but it is obviously not recognized at individual level.

What I would expect from people in the business of denying is exactly that : exposing environmentalist for hypocrites, pointing out that

1. environmentalist use cars as well
2. they use plastic as well
3. and the litany is already well known to many

and it will go on and on, regardless of how not-moralizing some people may look like. It is just TOO easy to find a shortcoming and the fact even the tiniest bit has an influence is undeniable.

Already being categorized as "environmentalist" is bad enough as being seen as "rep" or "lib" or whatnot. Tree-huggers still rings a bell.

While I agree politicians will have to play a key role, I think the effort may require quite many governments with a mix of colors, so it has to be a people request, a sine qua non.

It should not, imho, considered as if it was a program to sell to the's a bad frame to begin with ; help should be given to let the data _shine_ , make in palatable to people that don't know jack about limit and models, as opposed to tell them "look nice graphs says so" .."does it ? Oh noes!"

Catastrophism may be met by punishment by nature : a sequence of relatively uneventful years..a short term sale project would crumble, lose popularity and therefore lose attention by the asses in charge. Making it a single party issue _could_ be necessary and may give an initial huge start, but would be met by opposing party winning and start demolishing what was done before, to make special paying interest happy.
posted by elpapacito at 5:50 PM on February 2, 2007

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