By Frank Rotering | March 16, 2018
The IPCC has to date released five Assessment Reports (ARs) about the state of the climate system. However, these reports and their resultant policies have failed to slow the Arctic meltdown or to reverse the atmospheric accumulation of GHGs. With each AR cycle the organization boasts about the knowledge it has gained and the details it can now supply, but the outcome is always the same: a deepening and escalating ecological crisis.
This march of folly cannot be allowed to continue. With the bulk of the sixth Assessment Report (AR6) due in 2021, the environmentally concerned must demand radical change during the current publication cycle. If the IPCC is unable to decisively alter its course within the next three years, it will have substantiated my recent point: the organization is an instrument of social control rather than a protector of the global environment. In that case it must be disbanded and if necessary replaced.
On this basis, I make the following ten demands for AR6. That is, I demand that either the standard reports substantially reflect these changes, or a special report is issued which acknowledges their validity and commits to their incorporation into the IPCC’s work.
I call on everyone who cares about the future of humankind and the biosphere to examine these demands and to act on them if they agree. Some suggestions for action are listed in section B below.
A. MY DEMANDS
#1: Fix the terminology.
- Adopt an expression such as “GHG crisis” for the full set of environmental harms caused by excess GHG concentrations. Discontinue the inaccurate use of “climate change” for this purpose.
- Consistently use “global warming,” “climate change,” and “mitigation” as defined in the IPCC’s own glossary.
- Drop the superfluous and misleading term, “negative emissions.”
#2: Add a diagram that clearly depicts the GHG crisis.
A simple diagram such as this should be placed at the start of all relevant AR reports. This would give non-scientists a graphic image of the environmental harms caused by excess GHGs, reveal the causal linkages involved, and clarify the terminology. Without this visual aid, much of the AR information will continue to be confusing or incomprehensible for many readers, despite the IPCC’s inclusion of point-form summaries for policymakers.
#3: Correct the framing.
The core environmental problem is not “climate change” (i.e., the GHG crisis), but ecological overshoot caused by economic over-expansion. A major part of the solution is therefore economic contraction, which means that population and consumption reductions must be included among the measures considered. This framing also implies that the IPCC’s reliance on “sustainable development” to justify growth and reduce poverty is irrational. The logical approach under current ecological conditions is equitable contraction.
#4: Specify the safe GHG concentration level.
Although imprecisely expressed, this was the key stipulation of the 1992 UNFCCC Convention (see Article 2). This agreement was ratified in 1994, so the IPCC has had 24 years to comply. It has failed to do so, and it has now switched – without adequate explanation – to the 2°C target. The latter has no scientific justification, whereas the safe GHG level can be readily determined.
#5: Replace emission scenarios with safe concentration scenarios.
The IPCC is currently saying that the GHG problem is excess concentrations, but the solution is reduced emissions. This blatantly illogical conclusion is the rationale for the organization’s main analytical tool: emission scenarios. These are various emission rates, derived from various social behavior patterns, that lead to corresponding (and disastrous) concentration levels. With minor exceptions, GHG removals are ignored.
Emission scenarios must be replaced by safe concentration scenarios: patterns of both emissions reductions and GHG removals that lead to the safe concentration level. Emissions reductions could be varied based on different rates of population decline, consumption decline, and efficiency improvements. GHG removals could be varied based on different removal methods and the intensities of their application. The results would be different times of arrival at the safe GHG level, as depicted in the last diagram here.
#6: Accept the urgent necessity of geoengineering.
Geoengineering is necessary to effectively address the GHG crisis because emissions reductions can do nothing more than slow the environment’s degradation. Solar radiation management (SRM) is required to tackle the Arctic emergency, and GHG removals are needed to drive the GHG level to safety. Both approaches entail risks, but these must be objectively balanced against the massive benefits. Where technologies are missing or inadequate – as with the direct air capture (DAC) method of GHG removals – the IPCC must push vigorously for their rapid development.
#7: Define and apply a valid ecological damage function for global warming.
Environmental harm from global warming depends on three factors: the speed, magnitude, and duration of the temperature rise. This ecological damage function must be rigorously defined by the IPCC and then consistently applied. Particular attention must be paid to the duration of the elevated temperature, which today is rarely considered.
#8: Recognize both tipping point and points of no return (PONRs), and provide best-estimate dates.
The IPCC recognizes tipping points, but it ignores PONRs – conditions where effective human action is no longer possible and ecosystem collapse is inevitable. Both concepts must be fully acknowledged. For major Earth systems the IPCC must also provide best-estimate dates for their occurrence. Lack of certainty is no excuse: these dates are required for planning purposes, and the IPCC’s associated scientists are among the best-qualified to establish them.
#9: Drop "mitigation of climate change" as the goal.
Along with adaptation, “mitigation of climate change” is the IPCC’s goal for the GHG crisis. It was therefore used in the titles of the reports delivered by Working Group III (WG3) for AR4 and AR5.
This phrase is unacceptable for two reasons. First, “mitigation” and “climate change” are so poorly defined that it denotes only a vague aspiration rather than a precise objective. Second, “mitigation” is too narrow. It refers to the linear aspects of the GHG crisis, which can be addressed by reducing sources and enhancing sinks, but it excludes the non-linear aspects – tipping points and PONRs – that require aggressive geoengineering methods. The IPCC must adopt a goal that recognizes both crisis categories, and must reflect this in the WG3 report title for AR6.
#10: Exclude economists from significant AR6 roles.
Standard economists are ideologically committed to economic expansion, and will therefore reject the overshoot framing. While they can make useful contributions regarding markets and incentives, they cannot be allowed to exert significant influence on the IPCC’s definition of the problem or the formulation of its response strategies.
B. SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
The following are my suggested actions to pressure the IPCC and its supporters to accede to the above demands.
- Contact IPCC officials, particularly the leadership of Working Group 3, regarding these demands. The draft outline for the AR6 report to be delivered by WG3 is here.
- Examine the positions of research institutes and other scientific organizations on the IPCC’s distortions, and then contact them regarding your concerns. To find references to the IPCC on a website, use the Google “site” option. For example, to do this for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), enter the following in your browser: “IPCC site:noaa.gov”. Note that there is no space after the colon.
- Similarly, examine the positions of environmental groups and contact them. Ten such groups are listed here. More can be found by searching on “environmental groups climate change”.
- If you are a scientist, find like-minded colleagues and then collectively disseminate a public statement or open letter to publicize the demands.
- Produce videos, write articles, or give interviews that outline the demands and underscore their significance.
- Confront speakers who convey the IPCC’s distortions during presentations.
- Confront high-school, college, and university instructors who convey these distortions in the classroom.
Minor edits: Dec. 18/18, Sept. 24/19