Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Climate Change News in a Time Warp

Is anybody else feeling like climate change news has entered a time warp?  Last week, one of the big stories was that climate change will bring more droughts and floods.  As I dug into the story, I realized that yes, this news was spurred by a new IPCC report containing important further analysis of how climate change leads to extreme weather and its policy implications (particularly for adaptation).  But my first thoughts upon reading the headline were: “This is news?” “Haven’t we known this for years?”  “Wasn’t this an important finding of the IPCC’s 2007 report?”

Then, yesterday, a Reuters headline announced, “Record high greenhouse gases to linger for decades”. Apparently, the UN’s weather agency has said that concentrations of greenhouse gases “reached record levels in 2010 and will linger in the atmosphere for decades, even if the world stops emissions output today.”  What’s new(s) about that?

The real kicker came this morning with a headline about hacked emails from East Anglia.  The BBC is reporting that a “new batch of emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climatic Research Unit has been released on the internet.”  The story then suggests that the emails are from the original hack, but are just now being put on the internet — timed for maximum disruption of international climate talks.

Is this 2011? Or is it 2009? Or 2007?  Or  perhaps even some earlier year?

I should make clear that I am happy that climate change is at least still showing up in major news outlets even if the substance of the news is not particularly new.  But this time warp feeling is quite disturbing given that time is of the essence in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.  It was several years ago that I recall first hearing that the window of opportunity for avoiding the most damaging climate changes was closing.

Oh – and have you heard the latest climate change news?  The window (er, door) of opportunity for preventing irreversible climate change is closing, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. 

-  Lesley McAllister



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