UN Revises Worst-Case Climate Change Scenarios

Published December 12, 2006

(Chicago, Illinois – December 12, 2006) On Sunday, the UK’s Sunday Telegraph reported that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is significantly revising some of its climate change estimates for the coming century. To date, the news has received scant coverage from the United States media. The following statement was obtained from James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute. Mr. Taylor can be reached for further comment at 941/776-5690 or by email at [email protected].

“Significant findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will issue its Fourth Assessment report in February, are being leaked to the media, yet the news has received little attention in the U.S. This is most likely because the news is good: Worst-case scenarios from years past are being retracted and replaced by more moderate scenarios.

“In its February report, the IPCC will lower its worst-case scenario for temperature increases by more than 25 percent. Instead of a 5.8 degree Celsius rise in temperatures, given as the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s 2001 Third Assessment, the worst-case projection has now been lowered to a 4.5 degree Celsius rise in temperatures.

“Of course, worst-case scenarios are precisely that: worst case. A far more reasonable projection is a continuation of gradual warming at its recent pace of 1.2 to 1.7 degrees per century.

“Also, the IPCC will cut in half its worst-case scenarios for sea level increases. Even if everything that can go wrong does go wrong, IPCC predicts merely a foot-and-a-half of sea level rise throughout the next century. This is in marked contrast to speculation in Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that sea levels would rise 20 feet.

“It is also important to keep in context the IPCC’s worst-case prediction for sea level rise. Sea levels have risen roughly 7 inches per century during the past 5,000 years, even before human greenhouse gas emissions were first released into the atmosphere. Accordingly, the worst-case human contribution to sea-level rise during the next century is less than one foot. This is hardly the stuff of horror movies–that is, unless the science is grossly misrepresented by propagandists with an agenda.

“Even as the alarmists continue to misstate facts and cherry-pick various local datasets to give a false impression of imminent climate catastrophe, it appears even the UN is realizing the sky is not falling.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environmental affairs at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.