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IPCC report: no surprises, not much hope either

The climate is a-changin'

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Humanity is "very likely" to blame for global warming and, regardless of what action is taken now, recent increases in atmospheric carbon will have a profound effect on the planet.

In the first of a series of four reports to be published this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has fingered humans as the culprits in global warming, with a probability of more than 90 per cent.

Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis warns that by the end of this century we can expect sea levels to rise by between 28cm and 43cm, that increased temperatures (between 1.4°C and 4°C globally) would lead to more frequent and powerful tropical storms.

Co-author Kevin Trenberth, director of climate analysis for the National Centre for Atmospheric Research said the warming of the planet "is not something you can just stop", and that in 100 years time the planet will have a very different climate.

But Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society stressed that this is no carte blanche for politicians to elect to do nothing.

He said: "The IPCC strongly emphasises that substantial climate change is inevitable – and we will have to adapt to this. It also highlights the enormous cost of not doing anything. This should compel all of us – world leaders, businesses and individuals – towards action rather than the paralysis of fear."

The report, published today, is not the full scientific report: that is not expected until the summer. It is, in fact, a 21 page summary written by scientists and politicians and designed to inform policy makers.

Register readers inform us that the science "has yet to be edited to agree with the conclusions", but we detect a slightly sarcastic undertone in their typing.

Benny Peiser, a professor of anthropology at Liverpool University, and a vocal critic of the consensus view of global warming, said that regardless of the conclusions, there were still massive problems to be overcome before the issues raised in the report could be tackled.

He told us: "What the report won't be able to do, however, is to come up with any consensus on what to do about climate change. The economics of climate change and climate policy remain - as ever - the most contentious problem."

A paper published in the journal Science compared predictions about global temperatures from the 2001 IPCC report with what has actually happened. The IPCC said global temperatures would rise between 0.25°C and 0.35°C; they have actually risen by 0.33°C, close to the top end of the predicted range.

Meanwhile, sea level has risen much faster than predictions, leading some to speculate that the IPCC scientists have been too conservative in their forecasting so far. ®

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