Input from contrarians
Penn State's Mann also feels that IPCC higher-ups, fearful of being attacked by climate skeptics, have "bent over backwards" to allow greater input from contrarians. "There's no problem in soliciting wide views that fairly represent … a peer group community," he said. "My worry is that they are stacking the deck, giving greater weight to contrarian views than is warranted by peer-reviewed literature."
There are indeed more authors for next year’s assessment – 831 as compared to about 500 for the 2007 report, said IPCC’s van Ypersele, “But there are many more chapters as well, because the scope of the fifth assessment is larger.” The resulting document, he said, will be “based on real science and not ideology.”
"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."
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media compan
* Correction (12/18/12): Earlier versions of this story overly compressed a quote from IPCC Vice-Chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele. The full version of the quote is included in this article.