You would have had to be stuck in deepest Mongolia to avoid hearing that the United Nations’ climate panel, the IPCC, issued a new report last week. Perhaps even in the depths of Mongolia, you would have heard the dire warnings emitted by journalists. You would have distilled from these agonized noises that the report concluded that global warming is worse than we had imagined, and that we need to take swift and strong action right now. You would have been misinformed.
The IPCC has produced a good report – an attempt to summarize what the world’s scientists know about global warming. Unlike the Bush administration, caught downplaying the science, the IPCC squarely tells us that mankind is largely responsible for the planet’s recent warming. And, unlike Al Gore, who has travelled the world warning that our cities might soon be under the oceans, it refrains from scaremongering.
But lost among the hype is the unexciting fact that this report is actually no more dire than the IPCC’s last report, issued in 2001. In two important ways, this year’s effort was actually less dire.
The report reflected the fact that since 2001, scientists have become more certain that humans are responsible for a large part of global warming. Otherwise, though, this report had a definite sense of déjà vu . Estimates of temperature increases, heat waves, and cold waves are all nearly identical to those produced six years ago.