IPCC’s Third Thump : #1 global warming still real; #2 still very bad for us; now #3: Humanity still flat-footed & slack-jawed.

   And the (climate) beat goes on. And on. And on. 

   After seven years of preparation the latest assessment team from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now done with the heavy lifting. It released over the weekend the third and last major section of this assessment – the fifth since 1990. Earlier this year it said that global warming is still a clear, serious, and worsening peril we have brought upon ourselves; just last month its second part said that climate change impacts on humanity are already measurable and that far more misery is on the way. The topic for IPCC Working Group III. which just met in Berlin, concerns mitigation, what it will take to slow and eventually stop humanity's persistent nudges upward on the planet's thermostat. The hope is to start reducing CO2 levels in the air before global calamity strikes. Nuclear power and geoengineering that please some conservative industrial sectors, on top of renewables and efficiency drives that keep greens smiling, are included among what the panel thinks should be considered.

A synthesis report on all three sections of the report is due in October, not that it will do appreciably more to inspire fast international action than have previous assessments. Greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated consistently despite multiple high-level reports for decades by prestigious scientific bodies warning of the danger. Many loud voices of contrary lines of thinking insist that scientists are suffering mass delusion, or write scary papers for the grant money. Some say climate researchers are tyrannized by peer-reviewed journal editors who will blackball them if they dare write a paper casting doubt on global warming. Seriously – a very nice fellow just the other day told me that last one. He'd read it in the Wall Street Journal.

  To get into the right mood for a modest roundup on major media coverage of the latest working group report, try this dismal commentary:

  • New Yorker (Apr 14 issue) Elizabeth Kolbert: Rough Forecasts ; Kolbert, an experienced reporter on the climate and environment beat and one who has become more overtly frustrated by events in recent years, starts off her piece with a look at the career arc of Sherwood "Sherry" Rowland, a trajectory that got him a Nobel Prize in chemistry for helping to unravel the impact of freon refrigerants on the atmosphere's high altitude ozone. The industry and big-bucks ridicule he suffered offers a parallel to what climate scientists are now facing from forces whose footing is largely outside of science: finance, energy industries, and fiscal conservatives appalled by the idea that any problem can be real if its solution impinges upon free enterprise. Kolbert calls US policy of subsidizing fossil fuels ludicrous and part of greater lunacy in the land.

  The paralysis that has kept wealthy nations from backing up their rhetoric with muscular policies can hardly be attributed to absence of information. All the major national academies of science have weighed in. And despite the sameness of the news, major media outlets continue to cover the IPCC and to circulate its reports widely. The IPCC says it is still possible to hit the brakes in time to avoid the worst extremes of climate change. It may not be politically easy, but the UN's expert say it is quite doable and affordable if the world's nations get serious soon.

Berlin IPCC Assessment stories: Let's start off with the Washington Post and the UK's The Guardian, in the news for coverage of NSA surveillance that just won each a share of a Pulitzer Prize.

Grist for the Mill: IPCC portal for reports by Working Group III. Here is Executive Summary for Policymakers.

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