In a run-up to the United Nations COP 15 Climate Change Conference this December, the Scientific Congress on Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges, and Decisions got under way today in Copenhagen.
Hosted by the University of Copenhagen, the conference is one of the world's largest interdisciplinary meetings on climate change, with over 2000 participants from over 80 countries coming together to synthesize and "add the latest research to basis of knowledge on climate change compiled in the IPCC reports."
The results from the conference will be compiled into a report for political negotiators in preparation for the December COP 15, considered by many as perhaps the last real hope for the international community if any coordinated international effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change will ever succeed in time to be of any consequence.
It is more apparent than ever that mitigation and adaptation are the only real options. The news from the first day confirm what the months since the release of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report have increasingly indicated - that the indicators of a changing climate are happening sooner and faster pace than even the November 2007 report from the IPCC projected. In some cases much faster, as in the case melting of the recored melting of Arctic sea ice, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and glaciers all over the world.
Little good news on the first day
The official press release from the first day said that sea level rise could be in the range of 1 meter (three feet) or more. New data since the IPCC assessment on sea level rise include ice loss from the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets.
The ice loss in Greenland has accelerated over the last decade. The upper range of sea level rise by 2100 might be above 1m or more on a global average, with large regional differences depending where the source of ice loss occurs", says Konrad Steffen, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado, Boulder and co-chair of the congress session on sea level rise.
Katherine Richardson, a University of Copenhagen oceanographer said, "There is not a lot, if any, good news that will be presented in the coming days." Among the stark news is projection of a world 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, by the dawn of the twenty-second century; unexpectedly rapid melting of both polar ice gaps and the Greenland Ice Sheet; ocean acidification, with seas rising faster in the past decade than throughout most of the observed rate of the entire twentieth century - and continuing to accelerate.
Coastal flooding events that today we expect only once every 100 years will happen several times a year by 2100," said oceanographer John Church, of the Center for Australian Weather and Climate Research.
The message from scientists becomes more strident
Scientists on the front lines of climate research continue to see the growing signs of a climate at or dangerously close to a tipping point of ever increasing change toward a harsher and unforgiving climate beyond the scope of human experience. Their tone thus becomes more strident that something be done:
This is not a regular scientific conference," say Richardson, "This is a deliberate attempt to influence policy."
The scientists have done their job - are doing their job - it is now up to world leaders, negotiators, businesses, and individuals to listen, and most importantly, to take action now in hopes of at least containing climate change within humanly acceptable limits.