Charles Greene and colleagues confirm what the evidence has added up to – that we’re probably already too late to avoid crossing major tipping points, and that the scientific consensus has been in error – but not like the right wing wants you to believe. Instead, the compelling evidence for climate change is that even the most rigorous scientists have understated how radically our world is changing.
As one of the authors of “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceanography (March 2010), Greene said that he and his co-authors conclude that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 4th assessment report underestimates the potential dangerous effects that man-made climate change will have on society.
“Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change,” Greene said.
What’s going to be really important is what we do with this information, as it begins to seriously penetrate mass consciousness. Study after study has shown we are much closer to critical tipping points than expected – most probably too late to fully turn back. It would be easy to abandon the struggle to limit emissions altogether, but of course, we have to be able to articulate the critical difference between 2.5 and 6 degrees C.
That’s not going to be an easy challenge in a world that doesn’t handle subtlety very well. I have argued for many years that we are going to, in the end, have to turn to the language of sacrifice and selflessness, of unity in the face of potential disaster – even potential failure – and that we are better off (because we then achieve at least honesty) choosing that language early, rather than only when we are compelled. This is just another bit of evidence that we will be compelled.