Compilation: IPCC reports, the 2°C danger threshold / carbon budget CON JOB and the global climate EMERGENCY – Part 1 of 3: What is the IPCC and why are their reports so important?


Contents (Click links to jump scroll.)

Part 1 – What is the IPCC and why are their reports so important?
What is the IPCC?
Why are the IPCC reports so important?
Part 2 – climateye’s 12 essential takeaways from the first instalment of the latest uber IPCC climate report, and criticisms of its many, soon to be catastrophically evident, underestimates
Part 3 – Summaries of problems with IPCC reports, +2°C, and the global carbon ‘budget’



This is a bigger compilation than usual (and in several parts) because there’s a lot that’s more than a little problematic about the IPCC‘s cautious, conservative, flawed, consensus / lowest common denominator-limited conclusions, and the long-pervasive, political, arbitrarily chosen, profit and delay-motivated 2°C (3.6°F) ‘danger threshold’ / ‘Global Carbon Budget’ CON JOB.

But first, a bit about what the IPCC is, and why their reports are so important / influential.


What is the IPCC?

Short for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, their major assessment reports come out in several parts over the course of a year every 6 (5-7) years, or so (the last one was in 2007/2008).  And they do other ‘special’ ones on a smaller, more focused scale, too, from time to time.  (See: collected publications and data reports.)

“Set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the request of member governments, its mission: To assess “the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response strategies.” (Quoted from this David Suzuki post.)

They are, without exception, the most comprehensive global overview of thousands of peer-reviewed climate science papers and other authoritative studies (published prior to the March 31, 2013, cut-off date), and their conclusions are gauged in language of certainty / uncertainty.

To scientists, the content reads like all the bad stuff out of the Old Testament, but, to the rest of us, without any of the passion, flare or entertainment value!

The first of the 2013/2014 reports, released in September, 2013, examined the current science of climate ‘change’ (or, for anyone old enough to dress themselves, climate ‘breakdown’, ‘disruption’, ‘destabilization’) and was titled: IPCC Working Group 1 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) — Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (PDF, 28 pages).

Part 2 (March, 2014) will look at impacts.  Part 3 (April, 2014) will propose strategies to deal with the ‘problem’ (or, for those of us already in the know about the whole Santa Clause / Easter Bunny reuse, ‘epic global crisis and dire threat to most life within decades‘), with a fourth, a synthesis of all three chapters, to be released in October, 2014.

2,000 scientists were voluntarily involved, along with experts from business, industry and environmental organizations.

9,200 scientific publications cited.  54,000-plus comments considered.  Endorsed by 110 countries / governments. Authors also include experts from business, industry and environmental organisations with a scientific or academic background.

“In other words, it’s perhaps the biggest and most rigorous process of peer review conducted in any scientific field, at any point in human history.” ~ G. Monbiot, The Guardian

If you’re into numbers, here are some more.  And here’s the 127-page Technical Supplement and full 2,216+page report!

Don’t have a spare month (or potent enough drugs) to get through it all?  Then you might prefer the 2-page Headline Statements PDF, or 3-page Press Release PDF.

See more resources at the bottom of this post.


Why are the IPCC Reports so Important?

Epic in their scale, scope, consensus-based standard and method of scrutiny, and line-by-line intergovernmental approval (of the SPMs, Summaries for Policymakers), since inception, the IPCC reports have been the primary basis for policymakers, politicians, governments and business leaders in the development of corporate strategies, all international (U.N.) climate negotiations and, now, toward a (supposed) new climate deal in 2015. (See: Compilation: UN climate talks: Betrayal of life.)

But the IPCC reports are also important in some very unfortunate ways…

1) For the most part, IPCC reports continue to be the agreed upon international parameter of consideration for most of the entities noted above, despite considerable evidence, both modeled and observed, that the uncertain influence of feedback mechanisms / imminence of multiple tipping points (3 of 9 planetary boundaries are already thought to have been passed), the risk of irreversible, ‘runaway‘ momentum and potential sudden, abrupt climate shifts, and the clear, present, acceleration of dangerous impacts that are in advanced stages RIGHT NOW, are all far more immediate and dire threats than the IPCC presents.

2) Contrary to the profound alarm that many well-intentioned participants in the IPCC process feel and seek to communicate, their cautious, conservative, flawed, consensus-based / lowest common denominator and, in large part, out-dated by the time of publication conclusions (based on the boundaries of their mandate, the cut-off date for submissions, political / corporate pressure / influence, denier intimidation, and decisions to exclude key feedback, or self-reinforcing, potential ‘runaway‘, mechanisms in their calculations — like the hyper-potent threat posed by accelerated methane release from permafrost melt, for example) have served as useful impediments to delay the emergency action at emergency speed necessary to confront the climate crisis.

3) The urgency with which we must transform away from burned, carbon-sourced energy is incompatible with the ‘business as usual‘, endless, unsustainable growth and consumption-reliant, short-term profit and delay-motivated, market mechanism-biased, fossil fuel-addicted / greenhouse gas-intensive global economic paradigm / pathology that the IPCC has been beholden to reinforce.

4) The IPCC’s primary focus has been on methods of adaptation and mitigation, NOT the essential principles of precaution and risk aversion. Watch this video that went viral a few years ago for a brief (9:34) tutorial that sums up the importance of this point pretty well.

And from Wikipedia:

“The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.”

“The principle is used by policy makers to justify discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm from taking a particular course or making a certain decision when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.”

If there’s one thing the new IPCC report DOES make even more clear, it’s that there is no lack of scientific consensus about the existence of global ‘warming’ (heating) and climate ‘change’ (breakdown, disruption, destabilization). It is “unequivocal”, the report states, and humanity is to blame for most of it.

In fact, it concluded with 95% certainty (“extremely likely”, the scientific ‘gold standard’, and as certain that smoking causes cancer) that human influence — greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, the impacts of deforestation, etc. — “has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (SPM page 2.)  Up from 90% certainty in AR4 2007, 65% in TAR 2001, 50% in SAR 1995.

So now that the pesky ‘burden of proof’ the quote above mentions is no longer in question (and hasn’t been for years), there can be no excuse — NONE — for the principles of precaution and risk aversion to be ignored.

More about this in the short list of links below, and in the many linked articles / summaries at the bottom of this post (about 8 inches further down, or click here to jump).




What is the IPCC?

Selected articles and posts



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