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Real Climate Gate …

December 17th, 2009 · 4 Comments

A leaked document from COP15 negotiations shows that the concept of putting civilization on a path toward survival simply isn’t even on the table. Until a few years ago (including in the IPCC reports), the ‘consensus’ seemed to be that flattening CO2 levels at 550 ppm might be acceptable in terms of the planetary system’s ability to support humanity and that 450 ppm seemed a reasonable target leveling off point. Increasingly, leading scientists are concluding that turning the colossus of the global economy away from growing CO2 levels isn’t enough but that growing understanding of climate disruption drive a conclusion that we must cut actual Co2 levels in the atmosphere. That 550 ppm represent massively catastrophic climate disruption and 450 ppm will have unacceptable impacts on modern civilization. The call is to drive down, from today’s 387 ppm, down to 350 ppm.

If 350 ppm is where we should be headed, 450 is very high risk, and 550 creates unacceptable risk (and damage), the leaked UN documents show that current proposals would lead to a CO2 concentration of 770 ppm by 2100. That global four (okay, 3.9) degree Celsius temperature increase would doom significant coastal areas to inundation, global agriculture to almost inevitable declined productivity due to disrupted weather patterns, huge percentages of species to extinction, and our children (or children’s children) to a much harder existence than would be the case with a FAB (fair, aggressive, binding) climate agreement.

As Jon Warnow put it

A leaked copy of an official UN assessment just emerged from the talks–it says quite clearly that the proposals now on the table will yield temperature increases of at least 3 degrees Celsius. This is what the Climate Interactive folks have been saying all along, news that’s been reflected on the front of our website. But now the UN is saying it, and they’re adding–in one of the classic examples of bureaucratic understatement of all time, that

the estimated temperature rise of 3 degrees “will reduce significantly the probability to stay within a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius.”

You think?

From SolveClimate, Deal-Breaking Splits Remain over Global Warming Temperature Target provides a somewhat more optimistic look at this.

UPDATE: See Andrew Light at ClimateProgress who views this as not such an important document or “leak”.

UPDATE 2: Heading into the final negotiations, another document leaked. A key issue is what numbers replace X and Y in the draft with the implications of those numbers. See: Filling in the X-Y draft.

NOTE: RE “ClimateGate“, after the fold a few places to look for more information.

Unfortunately, the reactions to this headline in the pubs, on the climate lists, and in the media who have picked up this sucker of a story demonstrates how knee jerk our community has become, and frankly, how hungry we are for bad news.

These e-mails provide plenty to criticize, but the most widely-publicized quotes often are taken out of context to falsely imply a conspiracy of sorts to hide declining temperatures and a lack of recent warming. A close reading of the e-mails in question reveals a more nuanced picture, with scientists struggling with how to explain uncertainties in complex systems in a world of 60-second sound-bytes and the certainty of blistering condemnations by those ideologically opposed to accepting scientific evidence of anthropogenic warming.

Climate Interactive

The Climate Scoreboard Video from Climate Interactive on Vimeo.

Tags: Global Warming · climate change

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