(Photo: REUTERS/Bertil Enevag Ericson/Scanpix)
The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a new report showing that the Earth has not warmed in the past 15 years. The results have those who believe that carbon dioxide emissions pose significant threat to the planet scrambling to explain why their previous predictions have not occurred. Critics of human-caused-climate-change arguments are using the results to argue, in essence, "see, I told you so."
Despite the fact that the IPCC's previous predictions did not come to pass, the new report argues that human impact on the climate is "unequivocal" and, given enough time, its predictions will eventually come true.
If humans release 800 to 880 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, the report predicts that the Earth's temperature will rise to dangerous levels by the end of this century. Of that amount, 530 gigatonnes has already been emitted.
The IPCC's reports are widely considered the most thorough of their kind on the science of climate change, and is often cited by those concerned about global warming. In 2007, the IPCC won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work. The first part of the report was released Friday. Other parts will be released throughout the Fall.
The report theorizes that the Earth has not warmed because some of the planets natural cooling effects overwhelmed the warming effects of burning fossil fuels. The non-warming of the last 15 years is a temporary fluctuation within a larger warming trend, the report argues.
The previous predictions turned out not to be true because they failed to understand three things, the report says: 1) Fifteen years ago, 1998, was an unusually warm year because of a naturally occurring weather cycle known as "El Niño." 2) The Earth trapped much of the extra heat in its oceans, rather than the atmosphere, and the previous report did not expect that to happen. 3) Unexpected volcanic activity has counteracted warming effects. It cooled the Earth by putting gases in the air that deflect planet-warming solar radiation.
Ironically, the report's three explanations reinforce some of the critic's arguments. The Earth is much more complicated than the "global warming alarmists" admit, they argue. The science does not know, some of these critics claim, how much impact human activity will have on the climate compared to the planet's natural warming and cooling cycles. The IPCC report shows that previous predictions turned out not to be true because of exactly that – the planet's natural effects turned out to have a greater impact than the introduction of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
In a recent op-ed for The Christian Post, for instance, climate scientists David Legates and Roy Spencer argue that putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels will impact that climate, but that impact has been greatly exaggerated by those who believe that the use of fossil fuels needs to be drastically curbed. A drastic reduction in fossil fuels will have little impact on the climate, they wrote, but it would have a large impact on the global economy, and would especially harm the poor and vulnerable.
The IPCC report comes after another finding this Summer that also runs counter to previous global warming predictions. Antarctic sea ice has grown and reached 35-year high, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center.
Those who argue that human activity is having a large impact on the climate, and that impact can be deterred by drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels, appear undeterred by the IPCC report.
In response to the report, Sec. of State John Kerry said the United States would continue to lead on climate change by seeking to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
"This is yet another wakeup call: those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire," he said, according to The Guardian. "Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or commonsense should be willing to even contemplate.
"With those stakes, the response must be all hands on deck. It's not about one country making a demand of another. It's the science itself, demanding action from all of us. The United States is deeply committed to leading on climate change."