Don’t get me wrong. I’m at least as nervous about all this climate change business as most people. The idea of “tipping points” doesn’t irk me the way it, for some reason, irks William. And I think we are in bigger trouble already than the general public seems to appreciate.
Still, I doubt this is justifiable, either in substance or in ethics:
The panel, co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said the world would have to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 to avert major problems. “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late, there is not time,” said Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist and economist who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “What we do in the next 2-3 years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.“
Supose it’s 2013 and we’ve still done nothing. Is it time to give up and have an end-of-the-world party or what?
There’s always a best we can do, and we should always try to do that. There’s no now or never until the last breeding pair of humans is gone (and we’re a very long way from that).
Yet Pauchari seems to be suggesting that in a few years we will have failed so utterly that there will be nothing we can do.
As far as I know there is nothing special about 2012 in the reports. Admittedly we have to draw the line somewhere, and in fact most countries drew that line years ago at Kyoto and proceeded to ignore it. Now that we are far across that line we need to draw another one, and more effectively. It’s fair for IPCC to make that assertion in the most vigorous way. Putting a number onto the estimates of the dangerous time scale is at least arguably fine for an individual, like Hansen.
On the other hand, doing so as Pauchari does on behalf of the IPCC is a very troubling matter even without the false precision. It is a matter of no little concern if the IPCC starts to turn into what it has been accused of being, that is, primarily an advocacy group, never mind an irresponsible one.
Science must be represented. It isn’t Pauchari’s job to pull numbers out of a hat.
I was sitting on the above article wondering if it would be better or worse to publish it, and it sort of scrolled out of consciousness. But then David Appell said something very similar on Quark Soup and I found myself agreeing. So let me say “me too”.
The situation is bad enough without making it worse than it is. The last thing we need to is to give more ammunition to the people who think it’s all over so what the heck…
Let me repeat my position. There’s always a best we can do, and we should always try to do that.
This principle will not expire in three years or ten. It will not expire at all until we all expire with it.
Thus I violate my resolution not to write anything until New Year’s. In my defense, somebody else said it first. So it doesn’t count.