Climate news that's come down the line: a draft report, congressional shenanigans, apples, carbon overload, and 2013 claiming sixth place.
If you follow climate science in the media, you no doubt know by now that a draft of the summary report of the fifth assessment of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was leaked earlier this week. (See here, here, here and here.) Key conclusions, especially those that point to greater certainty about human-influences of climate change and the consequences of same, are being reported on and discussed.
My suggestion: to the extent that you can, pay no attention.
A key feature of the IPCC assessments -- a feature that helps gives them their credibility -- is the process that produces them, and in the case of the upcoming assessment due out next year, that process has not been completed. Before being finalized and released, the report must go through many layers of review. And the fifth assessment -- which will provide the most up-to-date, comprehensive science on climate change since 2007′s fourth assessment -- still has one more round of review. That's why it's called a draft report and not the assessment.
Albeit it is late in the process and major changes are unlikely, but changes there will almost certainly be. As a statement issued by the United Nations to Fox News put it:
"The text is likely to change in response to comments from governments received in recent weeks and will also be considered by governments and scientists at a four-day approval session at the end of September. ... It is therefore premature and could be misleading to attempt to draw conclusions from it."
The unfortunate thing about all this attention to the draft report is that when the actual assessment is released, a good deal of the reporting could very well focus on how the final report differs from the draft and what that means. My preference: Let's wait for the actual report and then dig into it. In any event, that's what we'll do at TheGreenGrok.
But the last week has seen some real news on the climate front. Here's a smattering.
Congress Wants Info on Federal Funding of Climate Research
The House of Representatives has announced it will hold a hearing on climate change on September 18th. Is this a hearing to find out more about climate change? Or, heaven forbid, about some proposed climate change legislation? No such luck.
The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is seeking information
“from relevant federal agencies about U.S. climate change policies and the administration's second-term climate agenda, and to obtain fuller information regarding the federal government's past, current and planned domestic and international activities, climate research programs, initiatives, and new regulatory requirements," said subcommittee Chairman Edward Whitfield (R-KY).
Sounds more like a hearing to set up roadblocks against progress than a hearing to chart a path forward.
Meanwhile in Colorado, we got another barb thrown at federal climate programs, this time aimed at federal funding for climate research.
"One thing that I certainly read from viable sources is that a lot of the research that’s being done–when you put your application in to get a grant, if you don’t submit to the, you know, orthodoxy of climate change by the radical environmentalists, you’re not going to get a grant,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) told a radio host in Denver.
It is not clear what Congressman Coffman means by "viable sources." I suspect that he is actually talking about non-viable sources -- non-viable in the sense of sources who aren't able to write viable research proposals (and maybe just a bit of sour grapes mixed in).
And speaking of fruit, there's potentially bad news on the science front. The taste of apples, apparently, is changing.
“If global warming continues to progress, the changes in the taste and textural attributes of apples could be more striking as blooming dates become even earlier and temperatures increase during the fruit maturation process.” writes Toshihiko Sugiura, a fruit tree researcher at Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, in a new paper on global warming,
Forests Have Had Their Fill
It's not so great for forests as a carbon sink either.
A paper by Gert-Jan Nabuurs of Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands and colleagues published in the journal Nature Climate Change reports that European forests have reached a saturation point in their ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and store it as carbon.
If that is the case, we might find more of the CO2 we emit each year staying in the atmosphere leading to a faster buildup of the greenhouse gas.
The Heat Is One
Finally NOAA's National Climatic Data Center just reported that despite the relatively mild temperatures many of us in the eastern United Staves have experienced this summer, the heat is still on for much of the globe. The first half of 2013, the center reports, was the sixth warmest on record and a little more than 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average.
A draft report may be in the news, but the real news remains increasingly heat blowin’ in wind.