This was the surprising headline in today’s New York Times article. Scientists from all over the world are meeting at the U.N.–sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris this week to hammer out the details on an authoritative report on global warming. Its findings will project centuries of rising temperatures and sea level unless CO2 emissions are drastically cut.
The first section of the report will be released on Friday. The scientists are finding consensus around several points:
- The Arctic Ocean could largely be devoid of sea ice during summer later in the century.
- Europe’s Mediterranean shores could become barely habitable in summers, while the Alps could shift from snowy winter destinations to summer havens from the heat.
- Growing seasons in temperate regions will expand, while droughts are likely to ravage further the semiarid regions of Africa and southern Asia.
As the scientists met on Monday, the U.N. Environment Program released its own report. They found that the most recent evidence from mountain glaciers showed that they were melting faster than before.
Of course, the world’s response is as it always is: self-interested political squabbling. The Times article goes on to say, “In the past year, international concern over what to do about global warming has grown along with concrete signs of climate change. Even so, political leaders are still groping for ways to tackle the phenomenon. Europe has adopted a program that caps the amount of emissions from industrial plants. But the world’s largest emitter, the United States, still is debating whether to adopt a similar policy, while developing countries like China are resisting caps on the ground that the industrialized countries contributed about 75 percent of the current volume of greenhouse gases and should make the deepest cuts.”
The international conference’s greatest contribution, to my mind, is their assertion that the science on global warming is “basic and undisputed.” It’s no longer a matter of whether these massive climate changes will occur, or when; it’s only a matter of whether we have the political will to fix it.