10 April, 2007
The second of the 2007 IPCC reports on global warming has shown two things:
- that scientists and politicians will clash even more in the future as the academic experts will get more worried about the pace of climate change and the slowness of political reactions;
- that the world will have to choose between an unprecedented (and unlikely) “redistribution of prosperity” exercise or building a physical wall to keep the climate-change affected poor out of a West that will continue to live in consumption haven.
The angry reaction of several scientific experts at the compromise text finally adopted in Brussels could have significant implications for future co-operation between science and governments on climate change. As political leaders will be cautious to upset voters and economic friends, scientists studying global warming will get political and will confront the lack of political leadership.
To be perfectly honest, there is not much new in the new IPCC report itself. Most of the findings mentioned in the report are already known for quite a while. As such the report is indeed no more than a conservative inventory of established scientific findings. The most interesting message in the report is probably that it will be “the poorest of the poor” who will suffer most from the effects of climate change. It underlines the cynical side of nature which does not care about morality or good and evil (John Boorman’s 1972 movie “Deliverance” is the perfect illustration of this).
It was therefore uncanny to see how Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC’s executive secretary, tried to interpret the political implications of the new IPCC report in Brussels. He admitted that the report shows that climate change is “pushing developing countries back into the poverty trap” but refused to see that the rich world might just ignore this reality.
Indeed, climate change exacerbates the gap between rich and poor and it is doubtful whether we, rich consumers, will be willing to give up some of what we have accepted as normal elements of our way of life (such as tourist flights to exotic countries – whatever its ecological footprint or kiwis imported from New Zealand). With the effects of climate change really kicking in during the next ten years and facing the future stream of climate refugees, will our politicians and citizens in the West not prefer to keep living the “good life” and isolate themselves from the victims of global calamities? Will there be a world with two faces, resembling the apocalyptic vision of another famous movie: John Carpenter’s 1981 “Escape from New York”? Will we build a new wall to protect our way of life?
Finally, here are a few other interesting blogging comments on the IPCC report:
- George Monbiot’s Guardian blog on how climate scientists are under intense pressure to water down findings, and are then accused of silencing their critics;
- Mike Dunford on ScienceBlogs has made an excellent comparison of the original draft text and the politically modified compromise. “Diplomatically pissing into the well of truth”, he calls it.