Climate Science has repeatedly written on the the need to focus on the assessment of the vulnerability of important social and environmental resources to threats of all types, including human climate forcings. See, for example,
This theme is also emphasized in our new book
Cotton, W.R. and R.A. Pielke, 2007: Human impacts on weather and climate, Cambridge University Press, 330 pp.
The narrow focus of the IPCC on CO2 as the dominate environmental threat and the use of multi-decadal global climate model predictions for policymakers, is, therefore, an inappropriately too narrow perspective. Indeed, the unintended consequences of the narrowly focused IPCC reports, and the naive acceptance of the reports by many policymakers, has unleashed a mulitifaceted risk to society and the environment.
Now, even environmental groups who have bought into the IPCC conclusions are beginning to recognize the threat that such a narrow view creates (and thanks to Benny Peiser for alerting us to the news release below).
The news release (reproduced below without its footnotes) from the News Center of CommonDreams.org is entitled
“IPCC Assessment report: Environmental Groups Condemn IPCC Call For Large Scale Biofuels as a Climate Disaster In The Making”
“The IPCC Assessment Report Four has made a compelling case on what global warming means to the planet this century. It is the IPCC´s strongest warning yet that drastic cuts in carbon emissions are vital if we are to avoid a catastrophic acceleration of climate change. Environmental groups are, however, deeply concerned that the IPCC’s Summary for Policy Makers on climate mitigation, released earlier today, includes a recommendation for large- scale expansion of biofuels from monocultures, including from GM crops, even though monoculture expansion is a driving force behind the destruction of rainforests and other carbon sinks and reservoirs, thus accelerating climate change. The IPCC also recommend the expansion of large-scale agroforestry monoculture plantations. These plantations, which will include GM trees, are similarly linked to ecosystem destruction. Monoculture expansion is a major threat to the livelihoods and food sovereignty of communities many of which are already bearing the brunt of climate change disasters caused largely by the fossil fuel emissions of industrialised countries.
Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch stated: “It is already clear that the burgeoning demand for biofuels that has been created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is actually increasing them by deforestation in the tropics and accelerating climate change. So far, only 1% of global transport fuel comes from biofuels, yet already biofuels cause steep rises in grain and vegetable oil prices, threatening the food security of poor people and spurring agricultural expansion into forests and grasslands, on which we depend for a stable climate”.
The IPCC recommend second generation GM biofuels, which are widely believed to be at least 10-15 years away from commercialisation. There are serious concerns about the risks involved in technologies which will rely heavily on GM microbes and fungi for the refining process, as well as GM crops and trees.
Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at Policy Studies Institute said: “There is an inherent and acutely serious problem within the report. On the one hand, it leaves us in no doubt to how vital conservation of the planet´s ecosystems and carbon sinks are to averting the worst predictions made in the previous sections of the report. On the other, it proposes the large scale use of the biosphere to satisfy demand in the transport and energy sectors.” Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Organizations added: “It is difficult to see how an emphasis on protecting rainforests and curbing deforestation is compatible with using biofuels as a solution to climate change when there are no policy instruments that guarantee biofuel expansion without accelerating deforestation.”
The IPCC report would appear to suggest that the climate can be stabilised at a safe level without reducing growth. The signatories to the press release believe that only large-scale reductions in energy use in the industrial nations, together with investment in sustainable forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
This press release by several environmental groups emphasizes why we need to reconsider the consequences of accepting the human input of CO2 as the most significant threat we face. The IPCC, as a result of its very limited approach of not even adequately considering the diversity of other human climate forcings, as well as the consequences for its recommendations, has itself created threats to society and to the environmental.