Climate Risks Have Been Underestimated for the Last 20 Years
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"Overall, the IPCC reports represent the best source of quality information on climate change," van Ypersele said.
'Nature of research'
Underestimates will continue to characterize climate projections, cautioned Richard Somerville, IPCC scientist and Professor Emeritus and Research Professor at Scripps Institution, "But that's the nature of research," as it constantly discovers new possibilities.
Looking back at the 1950s when scientists first identified the climate problem, Somerville notes that the tone at the time "was not catastrophic at all, but rather curious to see how the climate system would react to a big spike in carbon dioxide emissions." Only over time did the full realization dawn on the scientific community that many of the consequences of climate change could be very serious and even catastrophic.
And that is what hasn't gotten across to the public, Somerville warned: a sense of urgency that, to most scientists, is now very clear.
"This is an urgency that has nothing to do with politics or ideology," said Somerville. "This urgency is dictated by the biogeochemistry and physics of the climate system. We have a very short time to de-carbonize the world economy and find substitutes for fossil fuels."
Glenn Scherer is senior editor of Blue Ridge Press, a news service that has been providing environmental commentary and news to U.S. newspapers since 2007.