The reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (‘IPCC’) are written in pretty turgid prose. After all, they must be agreed to by a large panel of scientists who are accustomed to talking in very dry scientific language that each member must agree to. Then all the member countries must also approve. Some countries like the United States and Saudi Arabia and others are always alert to how they might be criticized so are careful about approving. Inflammatory language is unlikely to ever get approved. As Elizabeth Kolbert said in the New Yorker, “The process seemed guaranteed to produce gridlock, and, by many accounts, that was the point of it.” After all, entrenched interests want to remain entrenched. That is why they send delegates to the meetings to ensure that stays that way.
Every 5 or 6 years or so the IPCC updates its reports. The latest report prepared this year just before the meeting of the parties in Glasgow Scotland is not just turgid, but according to Kolbert, “pretty much impenetrable. Still it manages to terrify.” The U.N. Secretary-General was more clear and blunt. He called it a “code red for humanity.” That does not pull any punches.
The report says it is “unequivocal” that the climate change is caused by humans. It has removed its slight qualifications from early reports such as “highly likely” or words to that effect. Doubt has been removed. Global temperatures are already higher than at any time in the past 125,000 years.
A few days before the report came out the Dixie Fire in northern California became the largest single fire on record. The one last year was bigger but it was made up of several fires that joined up. The day it was issued “two hundred million Americans were under some kind of heat advisory.”
Of course, what did the political leaders do? As Kolbert reported, “As the world fried and boiled, Washington continued to do what it does best, which is argue.” Let me make clear Canada of course was no better,. Politicians have been arguing for decades as the world gets hotter. Kolbert put it this way:
“Every day matters. Three decades have passed since the I.P.C.C. released its first report. During that time, annual global emissions have nearly doubled and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere put there by humans has more than doubled. As a result, the world is rapidly approaching thresholds that no sane person would want to cross.’
We all wonder what will happen when temperatures continue to rise. Kolbert said this about that:
“In the carefully vetted formulations of the I.P.C.C. ‘many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming.’ In other words, we really don’t want to find out. But unfortunately we are going to.”
Somethings it might be better not to know. The effects of climate increasing by 2ºC are one of them.