IPCC meets on 2007 Synthesis Report amidst concerns about climate change and political pressure

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, is meeting in Valencia, Spain, this week to complete action on the IPCC Synthesis Report, the fourth and final volume of the comprehensive IPCC 2007 scientific assessment of climate change. We expect government representatives will engage once again in the kind of politically motivated interventions that have appeared to characterize negotiations on previous IPCC policymaker summaries this year—as we documented with the scientists’ “Final Draft” Summary for Policymakers on the climate change impacts assessment report before it was altered during editing negotiations with government representatives. 

The Associated Press reported on November 12 (“UN Official Warns of Ignoring Warming”—excerpt):

Environmentalists and authors of the report expected tense discussions on what to include and leave out of the document, which is a synthesis of thousands of scientific papers. A summary of about 25 pages will be negotiated line-by-line this week, then adopted by consensus.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning panel, said scientists were determined to ‘‘adhere to standards of quality’’ in the report. It was indirect barb at the government representatives, who have been accused by environmentalists of watering down and excluding vital information from the summaries of earlier reports to fit their domestic agendas.

The document to be issued Saturday sums up the scientific consensus on how rapidly the Earth is warming and the effects already observed; the impact it could have for billions of people; and what steps can be taken to keep the planet’s temperature from rising to disastrous levels….

The IPCC has already been criticized for the selectivity and language of the policy summaries, which have been softened on several points because of objections by countries including the United States, China and some big oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, WWF International, one of several environmental groups invited to observe the process, said ‘‘governments cut vital facts and important information’’ during the negotiations.

Without naming them, the WWF accused governments of ‘‘politically inspired trimming’’ of facts from the summaries, which it said diluted the urgency to make deep cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Voice of America reported:

Environmentalists Meeting in Spain to Draft Key Report on Global Warming
By Lisa Bryant
Paris
12 November 2007

The international climate change panel that won this year’s Nobel peace prize is holding a meeting in the Spanish city of Valencia this week to draft a key report on global warming. Environmentalists hope the document will increase pressure on countries like the United States and China to agree to binding cuts on greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts from roughly 140 countries are in Valencia this week to synthesize previous global warming studies they produced earlier this year into a report that will be published Friday. They are part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, an international body of experts that won this year’s Nobel peace prize for its work on global warming.

The gathering comes ahead of key climate change talks due in December, in Bali, Indonesia. Governments are expected to consider drafting a successor to the 1990 Kyoto Protocol on cutting earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol expires in 2012.

But even as environmentalists praise the IPCC, some like World Wildlife Fund energy expert Stephan Singer believe the panel is already out of date.

“We have seen post-IPCC science coming out the last couple of months which tells us the cautious and conservative consensus body of the IPCC is already past history, unfortunately,” Singer said. “We have seen record melting in the Arctic, 10 times as strong as observed this year as the average of 10 to 15 years. We have seen to the surprise of many that the ocean probably is much more saturated with carbon dioxide than we thought before.”

Singer notes the IPCC’s findings still carry immense political weight. He hopes governments will bear them in mind when they head to Bali next month.

“What World Wildlife Fund hopes will end up in the process following Bali is for long-term emissions reductions of industrialized countries of something like 30 percent, by 2020,” he said. “And of course, taking into account over time the large and growing emissions by emerging economies.”

Environmentalists particularly hope richer nations like the United States, which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, will take the lead in mandatory emissions cuts—and set an example for growing and polluting economies like China and India to follow.

See our earlier postings:

New IPCC report identifies observed and future impacts of global climate change
April 6, 2007

The IPCC scientists “Final Draft” on climate change impacts before government editing negotiations
April 7, 2007

Before the 23-page Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific assessment of climate change impacts was approved for publication on April 6, a “Final Draft” by the lead-author scientists had to be revised and approved line-by-line in negotiations with government representatives from around the world.  During a lengthy and contentious session, with interventions by government representatives from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, numerous edits were made to the scientists’ draft prior to final joint approval by scientists and diplomats.  Numerous changes appear clearly to have the effect of “toning down” the scientists’ own draft language on likely damaging impacts of climate change.  Climate Science Watch has obtained a copy of the scientists’ embargoed “Confidential Draft in preparation for Final Government Review,” i.e., the unedited draft, and posts it here as a public service.  (See Details)

IPCC 2007 Synthesis Report—Outline of Topics

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