Saturday, November 24, 2007

  • 22 November 2007
  • Fred Pearce
  • Magazine issue 2631

THE warning is of "abrupt and irreversible" climate change. They are words we have heard often enough - but never before from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its "synthesis report" published last week - which is intended mainly as a summary of findings presented in three detailed studies released earlier this year - has in fact gone further than those reports.

IPCC chiefs headed by chairman Rajendra Pachauri were stung by criticisms from scientists that their report on the physical science of climate change, agreed in February, had painted too rosy a picture. The charge was that their efforts to concentrate on findings with a 90 per cent certainty or better had resulted in them leaving out scarier but less certain scenarios. The synthesis report tries to make amends.

For instance, the February report predicted that sea levels will rise "between 18 and 59 centimetres" by 2100. Many ...

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