Climate deniers began working to undermine the fifth Climate Assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) even before the first part of the report was released on September 27. A plethora of media outlets, politicians and business interests are employing a barrage of misinformation tactics to undermine the report.
A misguided article published in The Telegraph made that outlandish claim that, “There is no other evidence out there that global warming is any kind of problem. That it exists only in the imagination of the people who programme those computer models and the scientists who contribute to the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is a problem.”
Another piece of fiction was published in a The Daily Mail article which stated, “UN scientists said today they are ’95 per cent’ certain that climate change is man made, but still could not explain why the world has barely got any hotter in the last 15 years.”
Climate denying Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, proclaimed that “there has been no recorded warming since 1998” and Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School said the report “shows that the IPCC’s predictions do not support alarmist predictions of global temperature rise.”
Contrary to statements made by The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Cruz and Lomborg, the IPCC report clearly indicates that global temperatures have increased. Since the 1950s, each successive decade has been hotter than the last, and the 2000s were the hottest decade since modern record-keeping began in 1880. Further, the report predicts that temperatures will increase 2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius) if CO2 levels are allowed to reach 560 parts per million (ppm) from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm (we are currently above 400 ppm).
What the IPCC report said was that there was slightly less heating than predicted by the previous assessment. The reason that land temperatures have not increased as much as some models had predicted is because the oceans are absorbing the heat.
The fossil fuel industry is also working feverishly to deminish the report’s credibility including promoting the fiction of a recovery of Arctic sea ice. To illustrate the point, the UK-based Daily Mail, ran the following headline:
“And now it’s global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year.” The article went on to say, “Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.”
What the IPCC report actually says is that the rate of ice loss is huge and growing. The Arctic Ocean is now melting at an even faster rate than predicted in the previous IPCC report. Arctic sea ice surface extent has decreased by 3.5-4.1 percent per decade (9.4-13.6 percent during summer) and it further predicts that the Arctic will be ice-free during the summer by mid-century if we continue with business as usual.
The world has lost 303 billion tons of ice from glaciers each year since 1993. It also says the speed with which Greenland’s ice sheet is melting has increased substantially with 237 billion tons of ice being lost yearly from 2002 to 2011, up from 37 billion tons per year from 1992 to 2001. Antarctica lost 162 tons of ice per year from 2002 to 2011, up from 33 billion tons annually from 1992 to 2001.
Another compilation of psuedo-scientific lies was published in a report from the Heartland Institute which is funded by the infamous oil barons the Koch brothers.
Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist and one of the contributors to the IPCC report explained that nearly every time there is a scientific paper linking human activities to climate change, the “denial-sphere” tries to undermine the research.
Media outlets have falsely claimed that global warming forecasts were “wrong.” However, these misleading reports have been dismissed by climate scientists as “error filled,” “unsubstantiated,” “completely ridiculous” and “an embarrassment to the serious reporting of climate change elsewhere.”
The IPCC report shows evidence of clear warming trends on land and in the sea, glaciers are melting, sea ice is retreating and ocean levels are rising.
The second IPCC assessment in 1995, said that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” The fifth assessment has made the same point but with the highest levels of confidence to date.
The IPCC report indicates that scientists are 95 percent certain that it is “extremely likely” that humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that have climbed since 1951 (up from 90 percent in the preceding report in 2007). In science, 95 percent certainty is a gold standard. Further, there is a 97 percent consensus amongst climate experts that humans are causing global warming.
An article in The Washington Examiner said, “Why does the U.N. love consensus anyway? Because it sounds authoritative,” the truth is that the U.N. IPCC report is as authoritative as it gets.
The IPCC assessments are the definitive report on climate and no amount of subterfuge should be allowed to alter that fact. The science in the IPCC report is sound and with key findings from 9,000 scientific articles, it is the largest summary of peer reviewed climate data ever published.
As explained by the former IPCC chair Robert Watson, “The observational evidence for human-caused warming is overwhelming, compelling and irrefutable.”