The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Elliott Negin,Media Director,

News Stories on Manufactured Scandals Ignore Scientific Urgency


News stories focusing on errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 report and stolen emails
from climate scientists could do more to put climate change science in
context. Many stories correctly note that these manufactured
controversies do not call into question the scientific consensus that
human activity is driving global warming. But stories also should note
that studies conducted after deadlines for submission to the 2007 IPCC
report have found that climate change is happening faster than
previously expected and the consequences are likely to be more severe
than the IPCC initially projected.

According to a backgrounder
on the latest science by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more carbon
dioxide is staying in the atmosphere as the ocean's ability to absorb
carbon dioxide has diminished; sea levels are rising faster than the
IPCC's best estimate, which was based on an average of several climate
models; and the Arctic ice sheet is diminishing more rapidly than
scientists expected at the time the IPCC released its 2007 report.

The December 2009 "Copenhagen Diagnosis," a report by 26 independent researchers
(about half of whom were IPCC authors) based on more than 200
peer-reviewed scientific papers, many of which were published after the
IPPC's 2007 report, draws similar conclusions:

  • Satellite and direct measurements demonstrate that both the
    Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and contributing to
    sea level rise at an increasing rate.
  • Arctic sea ice has melted far beyond the expectations of
    climate models. For example, the area of summer sea ice melt during
    2007 to 2009 was about 40 percent greater than the average projection
    from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
  • Sea level has risen more than 5 centimeters over the past 15
    years. Accounting for ice sheets and glaciers, global sea level rise
    may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of as much as 2 meters
    considered the upper limit by this time. This is much higher than
    previously projected by the IPCC. Furthermore, beyond 2100, sea level
    rise of several meters is likely over the next few centuries.
  • In 2008, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were
    approximately 40 percent higher than in 1990. Even if emissions do not
    increase beyond today's levels, within only 20 years, the world will
    have used up the allowable emissions to have a reasonable chance of
    limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

According to the press release announcing the publication of the
"Copenhagen Diagnosis," "The report concludes that global emissions
must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to 10 years for the
world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of
climate change. To stabilize climate, global emissions of carbon
dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases need to reach near-zero
well within this century."

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.