More on the ICC process
The Guardian IPCC reports 'diluted' under 'political pressure' to protect fossil fuel interests
IPCC assessment Reports for Policy Makers (SPM) are the only source of science recognized by governments for policy making and international discussions under the 1992 UN FCCCC (climate convention).
The IPCC is not actually a science panel, inasmuch as it has inexpert bureaucrat representatives from all governments who sit on the panel.
The three working group reports of the IPCC 5th assessment (AR5) are on the IPCC website.
Each Working Group issues two kinds of reports.
The short SPM report is agreed to by all the scientists and all governments before it can be published. This is also only the part of the IPCC assessment that gets reported by the media.
The other reports are very long comprehensive climate
The IPCC mandate
The WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the IPCC in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts (IPCC website 2013)
In 1998 the IPCC Princlpes were defined as the role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies (IPCC website 2013)
The IPCC has three Working Groups and a Task Force. Working Group I (WGI) assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change, while Working Groups II (WGII) and III (WGIII) assess the vulnerability and adaptation of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, and the mitigation options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, respectively (IPCC website 2013).
The IPCC and with a couple of notable experts scientists in general avoid making conclusions about the climate science and research, that could be alarming, and the IPCC makes no recommendations.
There are three reasons for this extraordinary way science assesses global climate change.
One is that science tends to be conservative demanding a great amount of research before making a science conclusion. This was the subject of a 2011 paper by professor Oreskes et al finding that the record of the IPCC science was that scientists are biased not toward alarmism ( as the climate skeptic denial campaign claims) but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates, where we define caution as erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions. change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?
CLIMATE EMERGENCY INSTITUTE
The health and human rights approach to climate change
Catastrophic climate change
The IPCC 2001 TAR and the 2007 AR4 assessment included references with respect to catastrophic risks, while there uis nio reference to 'catastrophic' risks in the 2014 AR5.
IPCC AR 4 WG 3 2.2.4 Risk of Catastrophic or Abrupt Change
The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans which would add to the mitigation required.
As permafrost thaws due to a warmer climate, CO2 and CH4 trapped in permafrost are released to the atmosphere. Since CO2 and CH4 are greenhouse gases, atmospheric temperature is likely to increase in turn, resulting in a feedback loop with more permafrost thawing. The permafrost and seasonally thawed soil layers at high latitudes contain a significant amount (about one-quarter) of the global total amount of soil carbon. Because global warming signals are amplified in high-latitude regions, the potential for permafrost thawing and consequent greenhouse gas releases is thus large.
In both polar regions, components of the terrestrial cryosphere and hydrology are increasingly being affected by climate change (very high confidence). These changes will have cascading effects on key regional bio-physical systems and cause global climatic feedbacks (very high confidence).
22.214.171.124 Methane Hydrate Instability/ Permafrost Methane
Methane hydrates are stored on the seabed along continental margins where they are stabilised by high pressures and low temperatures, implying that ocean warming may cause hydrate instability and release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is also stored in the soils in areas of permafrost and warming increases the likelihood of a positive feedback in the climate system via permafrost melting and the release of trapped methane into the atmosphere.
Both forms of methane release represent a potential threshold in the climate system. As the climate warms, the likelihood of the system crossing a threshold for a sudden release increases. Since these changes produce changes in the radiative forcing through changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations, the climatic impacts of such a release are the same as an increase in the rate of change in the radiative forcing.
Chapter 7: Climate System-Biogeochemistry Couplings
– “Recent modeling suggests that today’s seafloor CH4 inventory would be diminished by 85% with a warming of bottom water temperatures by 3°C” (Buffett and Archer, 2004). (Ch. 126.96.36.199)
Chapter 10: Global Climate Projections
– “… some sources of future radiative forcing are yet to be accounted for in the ensemble projections, including those from land use change, variations in solar and volcanic activity, and CH4 release from permafrost or ocean hydrates.” (Ch. 10.5.1)
Ch. 19: Assessing Key Vulnerabilities and the Risk
From Climate Change (“key vulnerability”)
– “AR4 temperature range (1.1-6.4°C) accounts for this [climate-carbon cycle] feedback from all scenarios and models but additional CO2 and CH4 releases are possible from permafrost, peat lands, wetlands, and large stores of marine hydrates at high latitudes.”
Third Assessment 2001
IPCC 2001 188.8.131.52. Cryosphere and Permafrost
Because large quantities of carbon are sequestered in the permafrost of boreal peatlands and tundra regions (Botch et al., 1995; Ping, 1996), changes in distribution of frozen ground and systematic increase in the thickness of seasonally thawed layer are likely to result in the release of large amounts of CO2 and possibly methane (CH4) into the atmosphere.
15.4.1. page 662
Methane hydrates: significant amounts of methane hydrates are contained in sediments, especially on Arctic continental shelves. As these areas warm, this methane may be released, adding to the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere.
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch4s4-7-2-4.html 4.7.2. Subsea Permafrost Subsea (or offshore) permafrost refers to permafrost occurring beneath the seabed. It exists in continental shelves of the polar regions. Subsea permafrost formed either in response to the negative mean annual sea-bottom temperature or as the result of sea level rise so that terrestrial permafrost was covered by seawater. Although the potential release of methane trapped within subsea permafrost may provide a positive feedback to climate warming, available observations do not permit an assessment of changes that might have occurred.
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch7s7-4-1-2.html Climate also affects the stability of CH4 hydrates beneath the ocean, where large amounts of CH4 are stored (~4 ×106 Tg; Buffett and Archer, 2004). The δ13C values of ancient seafloor carbonates reveal several hydrate dissociation events that appear to have occurred in connection with rapid warming episodes in the Earth’s history (Dickens et al., 1997; Dickens, 2001)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognised as the authoritative voice on climate change science, but the IPCC, though a most important organization, is not what it seems.
The work of the organization is policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive. A 2010 IPCC brochure, 22 years of IPCC Climate Change Assessment is a good short overview of what the IPCC is.
'What is unique about IPCC?
The UN set up the IPCC under UNEP and the WMO. The UN 1988 IPCC resolution was for the “Protection of the global climate for present and future generations of mankind” (1988). The IPCC was to provide:
(a) The state of knowledge of the science of climate and climatic change;
(b) Programmes and studies on the social and economic impact of climate change, including global warming;
(c) Possible response strategies to delay, limit or mitigate the impact of adverse climate change;
(d) The identification and possible strengthening of relevant existing international legal instruments having a bearing on climate;
(e) Elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate”. 'The IPCC represents a unique partnership between the scientific community and the world’s governments'. (IPCC site)
The IPCC principles are to 'assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation'. (IPCC site)
Another unique principle to science is to assess climate change science by negotiation for consensus, meaning agreement of all scientists and all governments.
The final approval of an IPCC assessment is made by the Panel scientists and Panel government representatives. The approved assessment report is called a Summary for Policy Makers (SPM).
The predictable trouble about consensus is that some scientists and some governments are biased to keeping the world economy dependent of fossil fuel energy.
Since 1988, as the 2010 brochure says 'One of the most important principles of the IPCC is to be policy relevant, but not policy prescriptive in its reports'.
Mainly as a result of the above the IPCC assessments:
o do not say if or when the world is in a state of 'dangerous' climate interference
o do not account for the many largest sources of amplifying feedbacks
o do not rate risk for large magnitude impacts (risk = magnitude X probability)
o do not make recommendations
o tend to underestimate impacts
o do not assess impacts past 2100
The single most important IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding
‘Projected future climate change and other human-induced pressures are virtually certain to be unprecedented compared with the past several hundred millennia’. (AR4 WG2 Impacts 4.1 Key issues)
From IPCC AR5 WG1, “The validity of a finding based on the type, amount, quality and consistency of evidence (e.g., mechanistic understanding, theory, data, models, expert judgment) and on the degree of agreement. In this report, confidence is expressed qualitatively”
Confidence on a future projection which relies on models will be lower, even though the theoretical science makes it practically inevitable.
From the IPCC AR5, “the following summary terms are used to describe the available evidence: limited, medium, or robust; and for the degree of agreement: low, medium, or high. A level of confidence is expressed using five qualifiers: very low, low, medium, high, and very high, and typeset in italics, e.g., medium confidence. For a given evidence and agreement statement, different confidence levels can be assigned, but increasing levels of evidence and degrees of agreement are correlated with increasing confidence. Also, the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result: virtually certain 99–100% probability, very likely 90–100%, likely 66–100%, about as likely as not 33–66%, unlikely 0–33%, very unlikely 0–10%, exceptionally unlikely 0–1%. Additional terms (extremely likely: 95–100%, more likely than not >50–100%, and extremely unlikely 0–5%) may also be used when appropriate.