And humans aren't to blame for global warming.
A major international analysis of climate change due Friday will conclude that humankind's reliance on fossil fuels — coal, fuel oil and natural gas — is to blame for global warming, according to three scientists familiar with the research on which it is based.
The gold-standard Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report represents "a real convergence happening here, a consensus that this is a total global no-brainer," says U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, former director of the federal government's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in New Jersey.
"The big message that will come out is the strength of the attribution of the warming to human activities," says researcher Claudia Tebaldi of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.
Mahlman, who crafted the IPCC language used to define levels of scientific certainty, says the new report will lay the blame at the feet of fossil fuels with "virtual certainty," meaning 99% sure. That's a significant jump from "likely," or 66% sure, in the group's last report in 2001, Mahlman says. His role in this year's effort involved spending two months reviewing the more than 1,600 pages of research that went into the new assessment.
Among the findings, Tebaldi says, is that even if people stopped burning the fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas blamed most for the warm-up, the effects of higher temperatures, including deadlier heat waves, coastal floods, longer droughts, worse wildfires and higher energy bills, would not go away in our lifetime.
The report is the work of more than 2,000 scientists, whose drafts were reviewed by scores of governments, industry and environmental groups. The document is based on research published in the six years since the last report.
Recognizing the problem of potential global climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the
UN and WMO.
The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. Its role, organisation, participation and general procedures are laid down in the "Principles Governing IPCC Work"