We all know that the Earth's climate is changing — or at least, we can acknowledge that something is happening with the weather. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures are already affecting us. The upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which is going to be the first of three, will be released in 2013 and 2014.
A draft summary of the report was leaked and described the panel’s concerns about climate change, which it states is real and is a result of human action. The scientists of the IPCC also state that if the world continues on its current passage, it will face exceedingly serious losses and threats (including a significant rise in sea levels by century’s end). According to the Jakarta Globe, "Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95% likely that human activities — chiefly the burning of fossil fuels — are the main cause of warming since the 1950s." Here are a few reasons why I think we should be a little skeptical of this report.
First of all, the panel admitted a mistake in its 2007 study, which wrongly predicted that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. Second, the IPCC does not conduct any original research, but instead reviews, analyzes, and summarizes existing climate science research from around the world. Third, we already know that climate change is real and that its main primary cause is fossil fuel burning, and if we don’t do something to reduce carbon emissions, we can expect far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts in the decades to come. Fourth, in every IPCC report I have read in the past, I've seen the agency provide an out-of-date picture that underestimates future warming because it continues to disregard huge parts of the scientific research and fails to report what it can’t model. Finally, the problem is that the IPCC only monitors human impact on the climate, but you cannot define the human-caused portion of climate change if you don’t know how much the climate changes naturally — and we don’t. The IPCC assumes humans cause most of the changes that are occurring to the climate, and produces reports that already take this as a given.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't care about climate change. I'm skeptical of anything the IPCC puts out, for the reasons listed above, but the fact is we need start caring about things in the “here and now” because we might not be able to change the up and coming. Let’s face it: Climate change is a gradual process rather than a sudden one, and citizens are inclined to demand protection against a risk that threatens them today, tomorrow, or next month. But if people perceive climate change as mostly a threat to future generations, then they are unlikely to have a sense of urgency.