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IPCC Scientist Says Climate Change Likely to Accelerate More Quickly and Be More Damaging Than Predicted

Without decisive action, climate change this century is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than predicted, according to Professor Chris Field of Stanford University, and a leading member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years. We don’t want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot.

—Chris Field

Field gave his presentation, entitled “Carbon-Climate System and the Terrestrial Biosphere” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago during a symposium titled, “What Is New and Surprising Since the IPCC Fourth Assessment?”

We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected, primarily because developing countries, like China and India, saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal. If we’re going to continue re-carbonizing the energy system, we’re going to have big CO2 emissions in the future. As a result, the impacts of climate change will probably be more serious and diverse than those described in the fourth assessment.

In the fourth assessment, we looked at a very conservative range of climate outcomes. The fifth assessment should include futures with a lot more warming.

—Chris Field

Of particular concern is the impact of global warming on the tropics. Tropical forests are essentially inflammable, according to Field, but if they dry out just a little bit, the result can be very large and destructive wildfires.

According to several recent climate models, loss of tropical forests to wildfires, deforestation and other causes could increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 10 to 100 parts per million (ppm) by the end of the century. This would be a significant relative increase, given that the total concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently more than 385 ppm.

It is increasingly clear that as you produce a warmer world, lots of forested areas that had been acting as carbon sinks could be converted to carbon sources. Essentially we could see a forest-carbon feedback that acts like a foot on the accelerator pedal for atmospheric CO2. We don’t exactly know how strong the feedback could be, but it’s pretty clear that the warmer it gets, the more likely it is that degradation of tropical forests will increase the atmospheric CO2.

—Chris Field

For the fifth assessment report, Field said that he and his IPCC colleagues will have access to new research that will allow them to do a better job of assessing the full range of possible climate outcomes.

What have we learned since the fourth assessment? We now know that, without effective action, climate change is going to be larger and more difficult to deal with than we thought. If you look at the set of things that we can do as a society, taking aggressive action on climate seems like one that has the best possibility of a win-win. It can stimulate the economy, allow us to address critical environmental problems, and insure that we leave a sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. Somehow we have to find a way to kick the process into high gear. We really have very little time.

—Chris Field

Comments

Andrey Levin

Treehugger:

For being a scientist you are incredible ignorant of actual data.

Glaciers worldwide are not retreating, because from 160 000 glaciers only about 80 have any meaningful data. Ocean level is rising for last 12 000 years, and in last 20 years ocean rising is practically stalled. Ocean is getting very-very less basic because of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, not because of AGW. The Earth is cooling in last 10 years according of two major satellite measurements, and one of two major land stations estimations. Second land based estimation of fraud-in-chief Hansen also shows cooling, but less than other three sources.

I supplied you numerous times with data sources, but you continue to publish your rubbish comments, probably trying to affect new or uninformed readers of GCC blog.

As such, you behave as troll and propagandist, not scientist.

SallyVCrockett

Clearly, what we're doing is not enough. I'm hopeful that with the new administration, we can implement effective climate change legislation--soon. I hope that includes a full and open discussion of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. We need to raise the cost of carbon based fuels while protecting consumers and incentivizing the creating of new, climate-friendly technologies. A carbon tax does all of that while avoiding the evasion and market manipulation that plague a cap and trade system.

Stan said, "there is lots of evidence that the MWP was worldwide."

Please provide the peer-reviewed evidence. And if you are on top of your game, you'll know that I can provide much more that debunks your statement.

Try starting with the National Science Council of the National Academy of Sciences;
http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=R1

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that the "idea of a global or hemispheric "Medieval Warm Period" that was warmer than today however, has turned out to be incorrect" and that what those "records that do exist show is that there was no multi-century periods when global or hemispheric temperatures were the same or warmer than in the 20th century". Indeed, global temperature records taken from ice cores, tree rings, and lake deposits, have shown that, taken globally, the Earth actually averaged slightly cooler (by 0.03 degrees Celsius) during the 'Medieval Warm Period' than in the early- and mid-20th century.
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/medieval.html
http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/bradley/bradley2003d.pdf

Andrey Levin said, "Warming and drying of tropics is physically impossible."

Andrey, have you heard of tropical deserts? Find a map (or use GoogleEarth) and look for the Sahara, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, western India, Baja California and the interior of Mexico for starters.

sulleny

Using the UN's list of sovereign states by carbon dioxide emissions data:

http://lce.folc.ca/2008/08/03/man-made-global-co2-emissions/

Note the chart "Mass of Global Atmospheric Gases." Their conclusion is man made CO2 = 0.000348% Lower than my calc.

Reel$$

Unfortunately this site seems to have crashed into the irresponsible ether. An anonymous post above is clearly the work of an irresponsible TROLL - but the GCC editors and gatekeepers, Typepad and other "handlers" have failed to take any notice. Which is why the AGW cult is collapsing into itself.

FYI - Editor, the links posted by the anonymous poster are DEAD. Sorta like GCC appears to be. RIP.

Andrey Levin

From web site you provided:

“Deserts are typically found in continental interiors of the SUBtropics…”

From Wiki:

“The Tropics, seated in the equatorial regions of the world, are limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately 23°26' (23.4°) N latitude, and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at 23°26' (23.4°) S latitude”

Practically all deserts you described are out of tropical zone.

From same Wiki:

“tropical climate that is warm to hot and moist year-round, often with the sense of lush vegetation”

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