In the run-up to Earth Day this year, two major reports were released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the largest such body in the world. On March 31, Working Group II released its report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, and on April 13, Working Group III released its report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Both reports cited substantially more evidence of substantially more global warming and related impacts than past reports have, and they did so more lucidly than in past iterations.
As climate scientist and communicator Katharine Hayhoe told Salon, “This time around, to its credit, the IPCC has gotten a lot more serious about improving its ability to communicate the report’s message, through graphics and other ancillary products.” There was also a greater sophistication in how to conceptualize, measure and compare things, even where substantial uncertainties are involved. And there was a substantial list of more than 90 major impacts already recorded on every part of the planet.
Yet, one of the most disturbing stories to emerge around the reports was the New York Times report that language about the need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the Working Group III executive summary for policymakers during the final round of editing. The action neatly encapsulated the yawning gap between the growing danger of climate change — and growing maturity of climate scientists — on the one hand, and the utter lack of political will on the other.
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