Climate Impacts Potentially Immense, Overwhelming

March 30, 2014


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report is now out.


This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year that outlines the causes, effects and solutions to global warming.

This latest Summary for Policymakers document highlights the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report in 2007.

In the words of the report, “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.

“Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real,” said Dr Saleemul huq, a convening lead author on one of the chapters.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that, previously, people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”.

“Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said.

The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. It details five reasons for concern that would likely increase as a result of the warming the world is already committed to.

These include threats to unique systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs, where risks are said to increase to “very high” with a 2C rise in temperatures.


As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward.

The report states:
“Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.
“… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”

D’oh! You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending).

Partly it’s because, until recently, climate scientists had naively expected the world to act with a modicum of sanity and avoid at all costs catastrophic warming of 7°F let alone the unimaginable 10°F (or higher) warming we are headed toward. Partly it’s because, as a recent paper explained, “climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.”
On top of the overly cautious nature of most climate scientists, we have the overly cautious nature of the IPCC. As the New York Times explained when the IPCC released the Working Group 1 report last fall:
“The I.P.C.C. is far from alarmist — on the contrary, it is a highly conservative organization,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose papers on sea level were among those that got discarded. “That is not a problem as long as the users of the I.P.C.C. reports are well aware of this. The conservatism is built into its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree.”

That’s why the latest report is full of these sorts of bombshells couched in euphemism and buried deep in the text:
By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors.

Yes, “compromise.” A clearer word would be “obliterate.” And the “high-emission scenario RCP8.5″ — an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of about 936 parts per million — is in fact where we are headed by 2100 or soon thereafter on our current do-little path.
Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years.



The devastating effects of recent extreme events and extreme weather disasters also prove that our ability to adapt to a changing climate is low, according to the report.

If left unchecked, the report finds that climate-change risks include:

•Coastal flooding, which will devastate areas near the shore.

•Widespread hunger due to warming, drought and severe downpours.

•Damage to big cities because of inland flooding.

•Extreme weather and storms, damaging some of the things we take for granted, like electricity, running water and emergency services.

“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of the group that prepared the report. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face.”


11 Responses to “Climate Impacts Potentially Immense, Overwhelming”

  1. redskylite Says:

    Stronger and more forceful statements in this AR5 WG2 report – lets hope governments take it seriously and take urgent action, seems even Judith Curry is impressed, or is she ?

    climate etc “Bottom line: I am intrigued to read the full WG2 Report, it sounds like they have done something different this time, and are moving in what I regard as the right direction.”

    • anotheralionel Says:

      But what does Curry think is the right direction, only time will tell? That statement leaves her plenty of wriggle room.

      Having trouble, not surprisingly, downloading this latest AR5 part.

  2. […] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report is now out. BBC: This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year tha…  […]

  3. indy222 Says:

    I would like to see a majority of those good climate scientists publicly declare that they will not water down the statements on the science just to get the “skeptics” (they dishonor the word!) and government people to sign off. I’d like to see them publish a truth-be-told alternative version, even w/o the full signatures of those with vested economic interests.
    What’s a planet worth… perhaps, growing a backbone? I’d say so.

  4. omnologos Says:

    Powerful words you’ve written indy!

    I’d like the same too.

  5. indy222 Says:

    While picking bones, what can we make of the statement in the IPCC publication last Fall that they were 95% certain that climate change was real and significantly had human causes. It’s clearly a compromise-worded statement that makes no sense, given the 100% certainty of the Keeling curve (done at a dozen stations, not just Hawaii), the 100% certainty it is human-generated CO2, and the 100% certainty of the IR absorption spectrum of CO2, the 100% certainty of the saturation humidity vs temperature physics, and the lack of ANY other mechanism that is a competing cause of warming (other potentially significant climate drivers are clearly off the hook: solar, volcanic, PDO, cosmic rays, natural aerosols, now clouds as well thanks to Sherwood et al, at least at the centerpoint of the uncertainty range). A much more accurate statement would have been “Climate change is real and has been caused by X% by human activities +-Y% (1-sigma error bars). From published work even in AR4, that X% is very close to 100%, and Y% you can argue about to some extent. There just ISN’T another plausible cause out there that hasn’t been thoroughly debunked. 95% certainty is a disservice to the urgency needed for action. Laudible as the IPCC is and the fact they’ve been able to get done what they have, I now cringe when I’m about to read their published statements. “Conservative” statements by the IPCC are vastly more damaging than clearly agenda-driven nonsense from Big Oil or the political right wing.

  6. […] “ The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report is now out. BBC: This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year tha…”  […]

  7. Why V IPCC report is so careful – “conservative”, but reports of Potsdam – no?

    In the reports of the Potsdam we do not find, for example, such fundamental work -paper (summarizing the results of many multiannual experiments) as: ( ”The ecological role of climate extremes: current understanding and future prospects.”, Smith., 2011, made such requests:
    “Finally, with a long-term field experiment where statistically extreme drought events were applied to constructed European grassland communities for five consecutive years, (Jentsch et al. 2011) show a lack of large effects for the majority of the 32 response parameters measured. For example, above- and below-ground productivity remained unchanged across all years of the study …”
    “Synthesis. The papers in this Special Feature suggest that although the occurrence of ECEs may be common in palaeo-ecological and observational studies, studies in which climate extremes have been experimentally imposed often do not result in ecological responses outside the bounds of normal variability of a system. Thus, ECEs occur much less frequently than their potential drivers and even less frequently than observational studies suggest.”

    … and many, many similar works – papers, we do not find in the reports of the Potsdam …

    How was in the past?

    ( Carozza (2011, współautor Gavin A. Schmidt): “To explain the observations, the carbon must have been released over at most 500 years. The first stage results cannot be associated with any known PETM hypothesis.” “Durations of 50 and 250 years are data‐compatible …; however, only a duration of 50 years is compatible with 3°C of warming.”

    ( Jaramillo (2010, – 28 coauthors [!] including many eminent scientists – and yet it this work is not cited in Potsdam report!): “Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event.”
    “We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics.There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to SPECULATIONS that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.”

    Carlos Jaramillo & Andrés Cárdenas (2013,
    “Our compilation of 5,998 empirical estimates of temperature over the past 120 Ma indicates that tropics have warmed as much as 7°C during both the mid-Cretaceous and the Paleogene.”
    “The TRF did not collapse during past warmings; on the contrary, its diversity increased. The increase in temperature seems to be a major driver in promoting diversity.”

    … and so I could cite and quote many times and for a very long time …

    I work as a farm advisor for the agro-climatology – my job is (among other things, but mostly) the promotion of renewable energy sources (wind farms, biogas, etc.).

    Is the “fight” with global warming …, it is mainly the development of renewable energy sources?

    No. This is mainly CCS – geo-sequestration of CO2 and other GHGs. Only (and only) earn here (CCS) oil companies and another fossil fuel companies. This could lead to contamination of groundwater and surface water and strong acidification huge surface soils. Geo-sequestration under the ocean floor is safer, but much more expensive. In addition, here also only earn (on this) oil companies.
    May not be sufficient funds for adaptation, such as protecting coastal areas against floods …

    … the 100% certainty …

    NASA (
    “Even though TSI and SSI at UV wavelengths have been observed to vary during solar cycles, how the Sun varies (both TSI and whole spectrum SSI) and how solar variations influence the Earth’s climate over long time scales REMAIN UNRESOLVED.”

    NOAA ( :
    “… our understanding of the indirect effects of changes in solar output and feedbacks in the climate system is minimal […]

  8. […] 2014/03/30: PSinclair: Climate Impacts Potentially Immense, Overwhelming […]

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