Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Alex Steffen takes stock of the IPCC reception and consequences on WorldChanging.

Some outtakes and comments:

Climate commitment -- the fact that the actions we've already taken have doomed us to a very serious set of changes to our planet's climate, with disastrous results -- will require us, in some ways, to keep two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time: on the one hand, we need to fight like hell to reduce our carbon emissions to prevent disastrous climate change from turning into an unprecedented catastrophe for human civilization; on the other hand, we have to acknowledge that disaster is upon us, and start preparing our systems to be rugged enough for a world of rising seas, droughts and floods, ecological instability and mass migrations of refugees.

For example, planners in the Bay Area have begun to worry about the costs of dealing with rising sea levels; engineers in Seattle are running studies to anticipate the degree to which this city's water supply (which comes mostly from meltwater from the nearby, snowy Cascade mountains) will be impacted by drier, hotter summers; while in British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is bracing itself for possible Katrina-like chaos and floods of climate refugees.

This discussion is right and true on the main issue: mitigation and adaptation are two things that both need to be undertaken to a much greater extent. Seeing the strategies as being competitive is a grave strategic error and the main reason why environmentalists (with whom I sort of identify) dislike advocates of adaptation like many conservative pundits, neoclassical economists, Lomborg, Pielke jr., etcetera. Of course it also holds that some environmentalists view the strategies as being competitive, which is as much of an error.

However, Alex skirts the main issue of adaptation, which is the extent to which and the way in which rich countries (who are responsible for climate change) provide assistance to poor countries (who will experience the brunt of the impacts).

What's more, while we're heartened by the media's generally good reporting on the severity and unanimity of the IPCC's conclusions, we're a bit disappointed that more reporters haven't picked up on the fact that the IPCC's conclusions are baselines, conservative findings they were sure they could scientifically defend (and in some cases, even less bold than that) and (as Gil wrote yesterday), many serious scientists believe that the most accurate climate models suggest we can expect to see much more dramatic effects, much more quickly, particularly as regards how quickly the seas will rise. Worse, there has been little acknowledgment that some of the major wildcards, like the possible release of massive amounts of methane from melting permafrost, or a huge change in the climate functions of the ocean due to acidification leads to (as Andy Revkin puts it) "a more than a 1-in-10 chance of much greater warming, a risk that many experts say is far too high to ignore.

The IPCC report only assesses "likely" climate change, which in its high emissions (A1FI) scenario goes up to 6.4 degrees (worst case). Generalised, the "likely" climate change goes up to 4.5 degrees celcius. Likely climate change, I think, is climate change which has a >2 out of 3 chance of happening under a single scenario. (This I would guess based upon the use of the word "likely" in the context of current warming). That unlikely warming isn't assessed in the policy makers summary is justifiable IMO. What is to be done about unlikely warming depends upon your views on the precautionary principle. As a green, you'd see it pertaining mainly to the earth and its creatures (our symbiotic planet, gaia, whatever floats yr boat), as a conservative/neoliberal you'd see it pertaining mainly to the market economy.
Carbon blindness should be a constant concern as well: climate change is dire, but it is far from the only problem we face, and if we attempt to tackle it abstractly apart from the myriad of interconnected challenges which face us, we will fail. If nothing else, the climate crisis should teach us that ignoring the big picture and the long term is ruinous to any society. What we need now is not only action, but action with an eye to holistic connections and long-term results. We have a sustainability crisis, of which our destabilization of the climate is but one symptom. We need not just a climate solution, but a bright green future.

Hear, hear!
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 16th, 2007 at 06:44:53 AM EST

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