Climate change 2013: the physical science basis

The IPCC have produced a good video about the recently released report of IPCC Working Group I. It explains the physical science basis of climate change in a very simple manner. Think of it as climate science for dummies in 9 minutes.

I have to thank Victor for bringing this to my attention. Victor is a climate scientist and his review of the video is that it is beautifully made with no obvious errors which is certainly good to know. 🙂 Thank you, Victor!

There are three key messages to take home:

*The warming in the climate system is unequivocal
*Human influence on the climate system is clear
*Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lock us into climate changes for centuries to come

Thomas Stoker (co-chair of IPCC Working Group I) says, “Therefore we conclude limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gases.”

The release of this video has been accompanied by the usual criticism from contrarian voices. In particular, people have accused the video of being alarmist and policy prescriptive. On the first charge I will say that climate change is alarming. However, the charge of alarmist can only apply if the dangers are exaggerated and causing needless panic. Firstly, I don’t see anyone in a panic about climate change – although possibly we should be – and secondly, if we accept that the video is accurate then it follows that it is not alarmist. If anything, I felt that the scientists who were videoed discussing observations, like sea level rise, all looked a bit blasé about it. I think what we really need here is a bit of healthy panic. 🙂

The second charge – that the video is prescriptive – relates to Stoker’s assessment that limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gases. Some people think that scientists should not step into the debate about policy solutions to climate change. I disagree with this on two levels. Firstly, I don’t think it’s prescriptive at all and secondly, even if it was, I want the professional opinion of scientists on how best to limit climate change. They are the ones who understand the problem better than anyone else and quite frankly I don’t trust politicians to understand and communicate the problem let alone dream up possible solutions to it.  It would be like getting a diagnosis from your doctor and then visiting your local MP for treatment suggestions. It just doesn’t work that way.

What can we do about? Probably the most effective solution is to divest or encourage your institution to divest from fossil fuels. See gofossilfree.org for more information. Politicians aren’t going to make the tough decisions unless they think it’s what we want.

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