And so, for at least six years, it’s over. Thousands of authors citing a large number of papers, in sometimes-conflicting consultations with governments that lend its name to the process, have helped the world to date humanity’s prospects and choices in terms of climate change. has given its best rating.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is far from an ideal institution, but it is a necessary and enjoyable one. Seeing the world’s governments almost unanimously acknowledge that they share a problem, and establish a process to identify its scope, rooted in the unbiased criteria of science, is in itself a sign of hope about the century to come. reason.
As we report on page 120, the final contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report is very encouraging. The panel says changes in the way the world generates and uses energy could reduce the risk of climate change in exchange for only a small slowdown in GDP growth. Various ways of bringing about such changes are discussed. But perhaps because the IPCC is devoted to consensus, the relative merits of those plans are not explored.
This is because two economists, or two nations for that matter, may agree on their analysis of the subject, but still differ on what should be done. That decision rests in the political arena.
Next month the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, will provide an opportunity for powerful nations to discuss the merits of collectively opting for an EU policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Six months later, in Bali, Indonesia, the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol would be able to begin the process of deciding what to do next – specifically, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. And whether to extend or not when its first commit period is over. 2012, or replace it with something else.
However it develops, this phase should confirm the Kyoto goal of comprehensive and coordinated reductions, but it should apply more broadly than current protocols. Just as Kyoto was deeply flawed by the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter’s decision to stay out of it, the next agreement will be flawed if the same is true after 2012 – even if, by then, the potential holdout will be by China, not the United States.
There are no concrete plans for the fifth assessment of the IPCC before 2012. But some sort of consistency in assessing where the science of climate change is going, its potential impacts, and the tools at the disposal of policy-makers is a high priority.
It is inevitable that many climate scientists care deeply about the implications of their work, and it is quite fitting, as the process unfolds, that they should voice their concerns. But scientists and their managers also have a duty to explore all options – and set aside their personal preferences in advising governments. In this, the community has not always been beyond reproach.
One research area that has been overlooked, partly because of prior ideological commitments, is geoengineering, which explores which conditions aspects of the climate system are deliberately manipulated to limit the worst of climate change events. can be modified (see page 132). It is true that some strange projects come under the same name – in particular, various misguided schemes to fertilize the oceans. But the idea is correct that more active management of soil carbon can offset future emissions (see page 143).
It would be far better to have such ideas examined scientifically – and their failures held to scrutiny – not. The scientists who began to raise this debate deserve thanks, support, and certainly harsh criticism from their colleagues. In climate research and beyond, it is important to remember that the value of scientists’ work comes not only from the research and expertise that allow them to inform debate, but also from the object text in which they create a rich provide to the community. A comprehensive and objective overview of the specialties and diverse interests can be made.