That will just about do it for this evening's blog.
Daily weather is not, of course, anything but a snapshop of the the climate. Still, as noted at the start of this blog, this month will be the hottest September by a long way for Australia.
Recent outlooks also point to above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall is likely over coming months for much of the country.
The chart below gives a taste of the abnormal conditions of late - with about a third of Queensland reporting exceptional conditions, as did Sydney.
A Bureau of Meteorology report showing maximum temperature anomalies on Thursday.
Worth noting that today's IPCC report is only the first of three that make up the Fifth Assessment. (The second and third will be out in March and April, respectively).
There's still uncertainty about whether there will be a need for a Sixth Assessment, with scientists such as Professor Steven Sherwood recommending shorter reports targetted at areas of confusion or where policymakers want more certainty.
While providing a useful focus for the public (and politicians?), the major assessments have largely confirmed what we have known for decades. "A lot of what goes into these reports is not different enough to what went into previous ones," he said.
And as to why Australians should take time away from the various football finals this weekend, to consider climate change, Professor Sherwood has this to say:
"This is really going to be crucial to Australia's future. We're looking at impacts in Australia that are going to be at least as bad as other places because Australia sits at a range of latitudes that are expected to dry out as a result of a warmer climate. We tend to live on the coasts and sea levels are going to keep rising, and it's also a country that experiences extremes of heat."
And, one might add, bushfires, as parts of NSW and Queensland have already been reminded this spring.
Bushfires have arrived early this year for regions near Sydney. Photo: Nick Moir
As mentioned earlier, the issue of ocean acidification can be lost in the debate over temperature 'hiatus', sea-level rise and so on.
The IPCC report does go into the issue here, but it's also worth looking at recent research too. As Nicky Phillips notes in this recent article, the ocean food chain (think whales, among others) is being affected by more acidic seas.
Professor Will Steffen also noted to me recently, the Southern Ocean may see some of the biggest impact:
People are worried about coral reefs, and they should be. ”But because CO2 is more soluable in cold water, the first and most profound effects will probably be in the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean with calcium-carbonate forming organisms, and so there’s a real concern there.”
“And even if there’s a pause in the atmospheric warming, it has absolutely zero effect on the fact that acidity keeps increasing.”
Breaching humpack whale. Photo: Allan Richardson
One interesting issue is the role of clouds and aerosols. For the first time, the IPCC report attributes a 'sign' to their impact on global warming, says UNSW Professor Steven Sherwood.
An expert on clouds, Professor Sherwood says the IPCC now recognises clouds will likely contribute a positive feedback to climate change - that is, they will make it worse.
Specifically, it looks like clouds will be higher and/or fewer, and that will worsen climate change. Still, the area remains one of the most difficult to pin down not least because pollutants from chimneys and exhaust pipes (sulphates etc) modify clouds while also having a (dimming) effect on climate change.
So, while it's hard enough to judge whether governments will act to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it's perhaps even harder to tell what they are going to do with aerosol polluants. Anyway, a key area to watch.
Professor Steven Sherwood from the UNSW and a contributing author of one of the IPCC chapters. Photo: Janie Barrett
"The IPCC has to do a lot more in terms of outreach," said IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachuari.
Look out for the full working group report on Monday.
"We will be making presentations based on this report at the Conference of the Parties (COP talks) to be held in Warsaw in a few weeks' time."
"We are going to make a major effort in spreading the findings of this report."
IPCC's chairman Rajendra Pachauri in Stockholm. Photo: AP
Dr Julie Arblaster a Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and a lead author of chapter 12 of the IPCC report, (Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility), notes that the climate models point to more hot days and fewer cold ones.
For Australia, this ratio (of more warm records, fewer cold ones) has been noted for decades.
Many of September's records will also include high minimums. Sydney's average for the month, for instance, is running at 13.9C, versus previous record of 13.1C (and a long-term average of 11.1C).
Dr Steve Rintoul from CSIRO notes Arctic ice was relatively steady in its area until about 1960. Here's one tweet with the longer-term picture:
As noted earlier, September is likely to be Australia's warmest on record. (It's already tracking that, and the forecast is for a warm end to the month.)
On a global scale, we're not seeing quite that extreme. Still, as Andrew Steer, President of World Resources Institute notes in his response to the IPCC report, there are global trends that are hard to ignore:
Extreme weather events and climate impacts are taking a grave toll on people and economies. Heat waves are occurring more often; glaciers and ice sheets are melting faster; and seas are rapidly rising. There have been 342 consecutive months – more than 28 years – where global temperatures have been above the 20th century average.
“It’s not too late to change course, but we need an urgent response based on the mounting evidence. We need to find pathways to low-carbon, economic growth. We need actions that will reduce global emissions, expedite the shift to clean energy, and enhance the resilience of our communities. We know that the costs of action on climate change are modest, and are dwarfed by the costs of inaction.
“Future generations are depending on us to wake up to this global challenge. It’s time for our leaders to answer the call.”
The 'evil twin' of climate change is the chemical effect of pumping out all that CO2, as noted in this tweet:
Greens leader Senator Christine Milne, meanwhile, says the IPCC report leaves the Abbott government "no option but to abandon Direct Action and take urgent and serious measures immediately".
“Greg Hunt is plain wrong to say that his 5% target is consistent with the drastic cuts required to stay within the carbon budget the world’s top climate scientists say must be met. He will be laughed out of the (UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change) plenary if he even tries to spin that line,” Senator Milne said.
“He is also absurdly wrong to say that the IPCC in any way supports the Coalition’s plan to repeal carbon pricing.
“On the first day of the new parliament, the Greens will move for the Abbott government to provide a written response to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and how it intends to respond to UN Secretary General’s call for countries to bring strong pledges to a UN summit next year ahead of 2015 treaty negotiations and for that report to be tabled."
“The IPCC makes it clear that the total carbon budget is 1 trillion tonnes, that half has gone already and that it will be exhausted entirely by 2043 if nothing changes. This highlights why coal from Galilee and Bowen Basins should stay in the ground.
Senator Milne also has a dig at some of the Australian media:
“Due to clever anti-science campaigns, funded by the fossil fuel lobby, and through the echo chamber of the Murdoch press Australians have been led to believe that climate change is not a real or urgent threat."
And there's this comment echoing Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki that willful negligence should be a criminal act.
“To knowingly refuse to act in the face of the evidence presented in the IPCC report is a crime against future generations.”
Christine Milne of the Greens pictured at an earlier appearance at the Press Club Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
David Holmes is a Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media at Monash University, makes an important note in this comment. We tend to look to 2100 and say 80cm sea level rise or 4 degrees warming and consider them to be the extreme end of the spectrum of risks. As David highlights, though, the changes in place won't stop neatly at 2100 but will go on long after:
“The really big item that quality press outlets will be reporting in the morning is the 95% confidence that most global warming is caused by humans. That much certainty is astonishing for a report like this, from a body that is renowned for its restraint.
Another resolute but sobering item that the IPCC summary communicates is that ‘climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.’
In other words, what climate scientists call ‘committed warming’ is now being talked about not just as fixed global average temperature, but a commitment to temperature rise that will continue to increase even if mitigation of C02 dropped to zero.
This is because the residence time of current CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere is potentially hundreds of years. This is an aspect of the science that has not been communicated adequately in the past.”
The melting of the polar ice - and other changes to the climate - is likely to go on well past the century's end. Photo: NASA
And, in case you haven't seen it, here's Nick Miller and Tom Arup's report summarising the IPCC's findings:
It is more certain than ever that human civilisation is the main cause of global warming, putting the world on track for dangerous temperature rises, the latest major UN assessment of climate change science has found.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it is “extremely likely” that humans are the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century, with carbon dioxide emissions the main factor.
If emissions remain high, by 2100 temperatures are likely to rise by more than 2 degrees - and up to 4.8 degrees - breaching a threshold agreed by governments as limiting the worst impacts of climate change.
Heatwaves will be more frequent and last longer, the report found. Most wet regions will get more rainfall, and most dry regions less.
Getting a few Australian scientist comments landing, thanks to the Australian Science Media Centre:
Dr Helen McGregor is AINSE Senior Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong
“This report shows that we have never been more certain that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are causing the climate to warm. As it stands, eight years during the past decade are in the top 10 of the warmest on record since 1880: 2012 (9th), 2011 (10th), 2010 (1st), 2009 (8th), 2007 (3rd), 2006 (7th), 2005 (2nd), 2003 (6th). This is remarkable given that we really haven’t had any strong El Niño events in this time. El Niños are usually associated with very warm years globally – expect warming to ramp-up when the next El Niño is upon us.
I am concerned about the unabated increase in upper ocean heat content reported by the IPCC. This is of particular relevance for eastern Australia where heat stored in the upper ocean has contributed to the major extreme rainfall and Queensland flood events during the summers of 2011 and 2012.
With a large population living close to the coast in Australia it is a real worry that sea level estimates have been revised upwards in the current IPCC Report – and their estimate is on the conservative side. This means we need a major rethink of how we manage, use, and develop our coastal communities and cities.”
@Aruptom (Tom Arup) has written extensively about the IPCC in recent weeks, including this important article on how we have basically used half our carbon budget if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
In bare facts, here's how the IPCC report deals with this budget:
Limiting the warming caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions alone with a probability of >33%, >50%, and >66% to less than 2°C since the period 1861–1880, will require cumulative CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources to stay between 0 and about 1560 Gigatonnes of carbon, 0 and about 1210 GtC, and 0 and about 1000 GtC since that period, respectively. These upper amounts are reduced to about 880 GtC, 840 GtC, and 800 GtC respectively, when accounting for non-CO2 forcings as in RCP2.6. (one of the pathways). An amount of 531 [446 to 616] GtC, was already emitted by 2011.
Meanwhile, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri was asked at the media conference whether we can burn all our fossil fossils. His answer:
Putting a price on carbon would be an effective instrument. "It's only through the market that we could get a large enough and rapid enough response."
Only so much of our fossil fuels can be burned - unless we can capture the CO2. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
Climate scientists have been wary about how data can (and will) be cherrypicked. Yes 1998 was a hot year (a big El Nino one), and yes temperatures have not soared past that year even though carbon emissions have risen each year since. But, no, that doesn't mean we can relax.
Hence this paragraph in the Summary for Policymakers:
In addition to robust multi-decadal warming, global mean surface temperature exhibits substantial decadal and interannual variability. Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.
As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade.
Worth highlightling a couple of the facts, these from Reuters:
SEA LEVEL RISE - Sea levels are likely to rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, after a 19 cm rise in the 19th century. In the worst case, seas could be 98 cm higher in the year 2100. The 2001 report projected a rise of 18 to 59 cm, but did not take full account of a melt in Antarctica and Greenland.
CLIMATE SENSITIVITY - The report estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 and 8.1F), lowering the bottom of the range from 2.0 degrees (3.6F) estimated in 2007 report. The new range, however, is the same as in other IPCC reports before 2007.
(That last point is worth underlining. Yes, the lower range of 'senstivity' is lowered, but only to what it was before the Fourth Assessment.)
(and more from Nick Miller in Stockholm:)
Thomas Stocker, co-chair of IPCC'S working group says "The warming in the climate system is unequivocal."
The evidence comes from the atmosphere, the ocean, the ice and land.
More than 93 per cent of the additional heat is stored in the oceans - "That doesn't mean the ocean saves us from global warming."
Every government present at the conference agreed that human influence on the climate system is clear.
Sea level rise in response to warming.
"It depends on our choices today" whether we can expect a sea level rise of only 24cm, or 63cm or more by 2100, he said.
Data shows a "robust signal of a changing planet"
Full report contains over 1 million words and 1250 scientific diagrams, digesting 9200 reviewed scientific papers.
110 governments looked at every single word of the report in preparing the summary for policy-makers. Almost every single word was commented on, and some paragraphs were discussed for more than an hour.
All the models predict similar rises in greenhouse gases, he said.
"In order to limit climate change it will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."
Meanwhile, some quotes from our intrepid correspondent in Stockholm:
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the IPCC had used the world's best science to address the world's biggest challenge.
He said political commitment was needed to keep global temperature rise below the 2 degrees threshold.
"The heat is on, now we must act,’’ he said.
Michel Jarroud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said: ‘‘It should serve as yet another wake-up call that our activities today will have a profound impact on society for many generations to come.’’
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said the report was a dramatic reminder of the significance and pace of climate change. He said the world must not wait for "perfect knowledge" of the science.
"We may not know everything but we know enough," he said, adding that it was in the common interest of the planet, its economy and society to take action.
Emissions cuts are what's needed. Photo: AP
Mr Hunt, meanwhile, has this to say about the carbon tax:
Against this background, the irony of the carbon tax is that Australia’s last international submission showed that between 2010 and 2020 our domestic emissions rise from 561 to 637 million tonnes. It is why we have opposed a Carbon Tax and will repeal it. Under the ALP’s carbon tax electricity prices go up but emissions go up. It is the wrong policy approach and the sooner it is scrapped, the better.
The Government will proceed with its Emissions Reduction Fund to ensure Australia meets the emissions reduction targets by 2020.
(It's worth noting, perhaps, that the government has vowed to axe the Climate Change Authority, which is busy preparing a draft report for release next month on what Australia's 2020 targets should be for emissions cuts.)
Also from the IPCC report:
It is likely that the frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and
Australia. (bold added).
Meanwhile, here's some of the view from Australia's new environment minister Greg Hunt:
Key findings from the Report include:
· A 95 per cent probability that humans are contributing to climate change.
· Projections that temperatures could rise from 0.9 degrees Celsius at the bottom of a low emissions scenario to 5.4 degrees Celsius at the top of a high emissions scenario by the end of the Century (compared to a 1850-1900 baseline).
· The likely range for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (how much average global temperature is expected to rise after a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations) is now deemed to be 1.5 - 4.5 degrees Celsius, a revision from the Fourth Assessment Report which provided a range of 2.0 to 4.5 degrees.
· Sea levels have already risen 19 cm since 1901 and projections for sea level rises range from 0.28 metres at the low end of a low emissions scenario to 0.98 metres at the top end of a high emissions scenario by 2100 (compared to a 1986-2005 baseline).
· Global air temperature over the last 15 years has been rising at a lower rate than the average since 1950 but the last decade has nonetheless been the hottest on record.
The Bureau of Meteorology has advised me that for Australia:
1. 2011 was 0.13 degrees below the 1961-90 temperature average;
2. 2012 was 0.11 degrees above the 1961-90 temperature average;
3. 2013 is currently on track to be the second hottest or hottest recorded year experienced since 1910.
(Actually: outlook is now that 2013 will be the hottest on record - blogger's note).
Greg Hunt. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
A reminder that much of the science in the Fifth Assessment report is new:
Two thirds of the 9000+ papers cited in the new #IPCC report were published since 2007. There's a lot of new knowledge in this report.— Chris Vernon (@clv101) September 27, 2013
Some strong words from United States Secretary of State, John Kerry:
‘‘This is yet another wake up call. Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire.’’
‘‘This is science, these are facts, and action is our only option’’ he said.
‘‘If this isn’t an alarm bell, then I don’t know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it.’’
Here's what the IPCC is saying about climate change - and how temperatures compare over the long haul:
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850 In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence).
While much has been made of global temperatures "pausing" in the past decade or so, the IPCC makes it clear where much of the heat has gone:
Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010 and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.
On a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface, and the upper 75m warmed by 0.11 [0.09 to 0.13] °C per decade over the period 1971–2010. Since AR4, instrumental biases in upper-ocean temperature records have been identified and reduced, enhancing confidence in the assessment of change.
Air temperatures may be rising less slowly - but that's because the ocean is drawing in the heat. Photo: Darren Pateman
Couple more notable departures from the draft IPCC reports (which circulated widely) and the final one:
There is a new finding on the cause of warming: "The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period." I.e. Humans have caused all the warming.
There's also a new finding on the attribution of heat waves: "Likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations.
While the atmosphere can hold more water vapour as it heats up, droughts are likely to worsen. Photo: AFP
Bit of server traffic but if you can be patient, here's the key Summary for Policymakers that has just been published by the IPCC.
Some analysis shortly....
More soon on the report, but here's a video (no longer embargoed) looking at the role of climate change and extreme weather.
Climate change's link to disasters
Not all extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change, but many now can, and researchers say the risk of some disasters is growing.PT3M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ujfa 620 349 September 27, 2013
Since much of the main report was leaked in draft form, here are some quick differences between the draft and the final IPCC report:
The so-called 'hiatus' in temperature increases has been modified to show it "an example of natural variability".
The section on Cryosphere reports the decrease in Arctic sea ice over the last three decades is unprecedented in at least the last 1,450 years.
This section also reports that observed warming has been up to 3C in parts of Northern Alaska and up to 2C in part of the Russian European North.
Ok, minutes to go until the IPCC report's release.
In the meantime, couple of things to ponder about Australia. As you may have seen, the Bureau of Meteorology recently published its outlook for rainfall and outlook for temperatures over coming months. Not good news at all for fire conditions, particularly in NSW. As much as 1 million square kms of Australia also drought affected, with the northern monsonal arrival the best hope for parched parts of Queensland, for instance.
Can't ignore the footy entirely: AFL Grand Final tomorrow in Melbourne between the Climate Hawks and Fremantle Doubters. (Or something like that). Who will win?
Australia will cop its share (and then some) as the planet warms, scientists tell this blogger.
However, as this oped from Dr Julia Newton-Holmes, CEO of CARE Australia, notes many countries in our region are already battling extreme weather and aren't well placed to cope with more.
Government workers clear debris from a road following a landslide that occurred at the height of Typhoon Utor in Baguio city, in northern Philippines, August 12, 2013. The most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines this year triggered landslides and floods. Photo: Reuters
While you await that lifting of the embargo (in 20 mins or so): here's a video from a climate scientist involved in the latest IPCC report.
Why the IPCC report matters
The latest climate change report is the most scrutinised document in the history of science, according to one expert who helped write it.PT1M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ug9e 620 349 September 26, 2013
Worth bearing in mind some stats around the IPCC: some 9000 scientific reports analysed, more than 800 scientists involved, and apparently 50,000-plus comments worked through.
While the talk is often on the "consensus" about climate change, some scientists prefer to describe the outcome as a "preponderance of evidence" that the planet is warming and humans are responsible for most of it.
Anyway, lots of new research since the Fourth Assessment report in 2007. While much of that will have been noted along the way in some media, it's in the IPCC report that the new findings are pulled together. We'll get that flood in about half an hour's time.
More on Australian conditions shortly.
Here's what Reuters is saying about the status of the IPCC report:
Top climate scientists blamed mankind more clearly than ever as the main cause of global warming in a report on Friday meant to guide governments in dealing with rising temperatures, delegates said.
"It's been accepted," Jonathan Lynn, spokesman for the IPCC, told reporters of a final summary for policymakers approved at the end of the week-long meeting in Stockholm.
He gave no details but delegates said the report raised the probability that most global warming since the mid-20th century was manmade to 95 per cent, from 90 per cent in its previous report in 2007 and 66 per cent in 2001.
The report also says that a recent slowdown in the rate of global warming is unlikely to last, delegates said.
It projects ever more heatwaves, droughts, floods and a creeping rise in sea levels unless urgent action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a UN deal by the end of 2015 to combat global warming, partly by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energies.
Dry areas are likely to get dry as the climate warms, scientists say. Photo: Reuters
In fact, September records will tumble by the truckload in Australia.
Nationally, it will set a fresh high for any 12 months (eclipsing the previous month's tally for Sept 2012-August 2013).
Sydney is forecast to have 30C on Saturday, with windy conditions that won't ease the fire threat. If reached, it will be the first time Sydney has had four September days of 30C or warmer weather - and those records go back to the mid-1850s. The city will easily beat the 1980 record average maximum of 23.3, with the current average at 24.3 and likely to nudge higher by the end of the month.
Melbourne, even with its wild weather of late, is also well ahead of its previous record September average maximum of 19.7C. Expect that record to fall too.
warm winter Photo: Adam McLean
While we await the international report, here's a few stats to ponder.
Australia is almost certain to record its hottest September on record, nationally. In fact, all states bar WA and Tasmania will set records, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The national mean anomaly will be in excess of 2 degrees C. (The previous record anomaly was 1.66C back in 1983.)
Heat waves Photo: Dallas Kilponen
You might also have seen this report from Tom Arup earlier today on what climate scientists want to see from the report - bascially action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Hi folks, we're just starting our blog of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The first of the three major reports from the Fifth Asssessment Report has been approved, we understand, and will formally be released in Sweden in about an hour's time.
There's a lot to work through - so stick with us over the next few hours.
To get you in the mood, you might have seen this report earlier on our websites today on why global warming has not ended in 1998, from Dr Sophie Lewis. Dr Lewis is a research fellow in climate science, based the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.