ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The IPCC's 'Summary for Policymakers'

A Comment

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "Summary for Policymakers" make for alarming reading about the global warming phenomenon. How bad climate impacts will be beyond the mid-century depends crucially on the world urgently shifting to a development trajectory that is clean, sustainable, and equitable, a notion of equity that includes space for the poor, for future generations and other species.

Every few months or so, I come across some fact when reading climate literature that just makes my stomach clench. This happened twice when reading the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) “Summary for Policymakers” (henceforth SPM, or Summary). Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere in June, says the SPM, has reduced by 11.7% per decade since 1967. Which means that snow cover in that month over the Northern Hemisphere has fallen to half of what it was less than 50 years ago. The second time was when reading that permafrost – frozen soil that extends several million square kilometres along the high Northern latitudes, frozen to several feet deep below the surface since the last glacial period, until now – has warmed by a staggering 3 degree Celsius (°C) in northern Alaska since the early 1980s and 2 °C in the Russian European north since 1971.

The IPCC, for those who, like me, came in late, every six years or so publishes assessment reports in three huge volumes on the science, impacts and mitigation respectively of climate change. The last such Assessment Report, the fourth, was in 2007. The document that has been just released worldwide is the SPM of the first volume of the Fifth Report, of earlier established climate science and of key peer-reviewed publications since 2007. The Summary is vetted by political elites of various countries before it is released, and has consequently often been criticised for being too conservative in some areas. Notwithstanding the truth of that, I must say that the IPCC assessment reports are extraordinary volumes. It is a pity that such compilations with the latest advancements in research worldwide are not also possible in economics, sociology, political science or whatever is the field of one’s interest.

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