I’ve had the great opportunity to spend the week at the American Geophysical Union annual conference in San Francisco. It’s apparently the largest annual scientific conference in the world (with ~20,000 registered attendees this year!), covering a vast array of topics but focusing heavily on climate change and general global environmental change research. It has been a great experience to hear lectures first-hand from world-class scientists whose work I have previously read and cited, as well as to experience the latest and greatest science from such a wide variety of fields all at once. I highly recommend it to anyone with global-change-related research interests!
One of the themes that has come up several times in the climate lectures I’ve seen is how the IPCC has underestimated many aspects of the climate problem, e.g. that GHG emissions, Arctic sea ice melting rates, and sea level rise have all increased much faster than the associated mid-range IPCC estimates, and in many cases higher even than their worst-case scenarios. I was going to write something up on the topic, but just came across this summary:
I don’t necessarily agree with every category they cite- overall global temperature rise and the potential for climate feedbacks are still very difficult problems and very active areas of research for which there is limited opportunity to compare IPCC estimates to subsequent real-world observations in a rigorous way. But based on the lectures I’ve seen, many of the other critiques mentioned in the article are right on the money.
The implication is that the organization has adopted a systematically conservative approach as a result of the way it’s structured, and out of disproportionate reaction to small errors that have been seized upon by the climate change denial movement. It’s very troubling to think that dire warnings from the climate change community that already generate such much knee-jerk opposition here in the US are in fact ‘rosy’ compared to what the most current science is telling us…