Thursday, January 7, 2016

Climate Comments from COP21: Scientists

At COP21 in Paris last month, I was captivated by the quality and depth of the comments and presentations from political leaders, scientists, youth, activists financial experts and many others.  I captured a variety of comments and share some of them from scientists here.  I'll be sharing more in a future post.

The Scientists:  Time to Act

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up under the auspices of the United Nations in 1988 to gather and analyze the best scientific information available and synthesize it for decisionmakers.

At a gathering at UNESCO during COP21, IPCC members did their best to convey the science as clearly as they could.  But, scientists often have trouble conveying information in a way that is understood and absorbed by policymakers and the public.  As French climatologist Valerie Masson-Delmotte said, "Scientists are not poets."

At the same UNESCO gathering, Dr. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, Director of the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy at Central European University said that it is possible to limit global warming to an increase of two degrees centigrade.  However, it will be extremely difficult unless strong action is started soon.  Limiting to 1.5 degrees is even more challenging.

Elsewhere at COP21, scientists were concerned that the climate models may be underestimating emissions and impacts.  Dr. Susan Natali of Woods Hole Research Center expressed concern that carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost are not being taken into account in climate models.  "These emissions from thawing permafrost are going to amplify climate changes," she said.  Dr. James Hansen expressed concern that even if all emissions stopped today, there will be noticeable further warming from greenhouse gases already emitted.

Dr. Youba Sokona, Vice-Chair of IPCC offered hope, saying that it is possible to limit climate change.  However, like his colleagues, he emphasized the need for swift action.

(All photos by Michael Paparian)

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