Meet John Doe: Humans are causing climate change: debate over

Paul Gorski
Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

Obviously, the debate on climate change is not over, but a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, http://www.ipcc.ch) states: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. …” The IPCC is a scientific body organized through the United Nations (U.N.).

The report goes on to claim: “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Find those quotes and more at: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_SPM.pdf.

The IPCC report, which had more than 830 contributors, essentially says: yes, we are at fault for a large amount of global warming. Unfortunately, the summary report is not so clear. The report includes recommendations for “policymakers,” recommendations written in bureaucratic gibberish. Example: “Future Pathways for Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development — Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term, and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.” From that I gather: reducing carbon dioxide emissions will help prevent some climate change.

What are the risks of trying to fix climate change? The gibberish continues. “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side-effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts.” If I interpret that correctly, trying to remedy human-caused climate change may have negative effects, but we will be better off in the long run.

The scientists should be blunt — Yes, people are causing climate change, we can fix it, and there may be some costs to fixing it, but we will all be better off in the end. Unless this is not the message. In that case, the scientists should release a policy statement that is clear and concise explaining their position. Then, the debate might be over.

Is the climate change debate finally over? Let me know.

Paul Gorski (paul@paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue

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