30 January 2007

The IPCC report on climate change -- first the good news

As bits and pieces of the upcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) leak out, a grim picture of the future emerges: massive flooding, food and water shortages, the death of coral reefs, the collapse of forest systems, bigger storms, acidification of the seas, the spreading of deserts, and on it goes.

But will the picture be grim enough? Probably not. The IPCC is a very conservative body. Only those points considered indisputable by all of the hundreds of scientists involved are included in the report. This consensus deflects accusations the IPCC may be exaggerating the threat to the planet, but it also means its reports err on the side of caution.

For example, a serious disagreement has already broken out regarding damage to the Antarctic. Apparently, the report downplays the affect of global warming on the region even though it has suffered the greatest temperature rise on the planet. Many scientists believe not only will the Antarctic be affected in a major way, but global weather patterns will as well. The continent contains the largest mass of ice on Earth and as a result is a major weather driver.

So when the report is released, keep in mind that as bad as the predictions may be, the reality will probably be worse.

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