CNS News – by Patrick Goodenough
Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his frustration Tuesday with the fact that even in the United States, “a very educated country,” there are those who do not recognize the urgency of combating global warming.
Addressing the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum, which encourages the “greening” of foreign mission in Washington, Kerry took aim at those who challenge the notion that the science is settled when it comes to climate change.
“I am amazed after all these years that we’re still struggling here in a very educated country to get a lot of people to embrace and understand why this is not a matter of theory, a matter of mere policy, but a matter of urgency for life itself on the planet as we know it.”
Kerry said that 6,000 peer-reviewed reports say that “we [human beings] are responsible for what is happening, we are contributing to it very significantly through human choices.”
“Zero – zero peer-reviewed reports say no, or contribute to the theory of denial,” he added.
“And yet, we have people, even in the United States Senate, who stand up and deny. So we have work to do and we have to undertake to try to do whatever we can – without legislation, if that’s what it takes – through executive authority, through our own decisions, to try to make the choices that will make a difference in this.”
(Frustrated by “partisan gridlock” in Congress, President Obama took the executive authority route last June, announcing that he was instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.)
Kerry did not elaborate on the 6,000 reports, but he was likely referring to the studies used in the preparation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments on climate change.
The latest report, released in September, concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” and that it is “extremely likely” that human activity has been the main cause of the temperature rise since the 1950s.
Pointing to that report, Kerry said it documented that “everything that scientists predicted 20 and 30 years ago is now coming true at a faster rate and to a greater degree than was predicted.”
He gave several examples, including shifting migration patterns of species, melting of Arctic ice, and “the continuing diminution of glaciers” in the Himalayas.
The IPCC’s previous report, in 2007, referred to the strong chance of the Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner.”
As hundreds of millions of people depend on water from major rivers whose sources are in the Himalayas, including the Indus and Ganges, the issue is of major importance for India and Pakistan especially.
The U.N. panel was forced to retract the claim three years later, however, acknowledging “poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers.”
Kerry lauded the efforts of the State Department in ensuring that U.S. diplomatic missions are more environmentally-friendly, cited solar panels at the embassy residence in Sri Lanka, energy-efficient cooling towers in Oman and strategies to dim electric lights in the embassy in Helsinki during Finland’s long summer daylight period.
“I’m proud to report that the department today operates more than 35 LEED-certified buildings globally and we have another 30 buildings in the works,” he said, referring to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating systems for green building construction.
“So we are putting our choices where my mouth and other people’s mouths are these days.”
Kerry said the first priority for the department “is, needless to say, the safety and the efficiency and security for our personnel. But our embassies ought to also reflect the very best of American design architecture, and they ought to reflect our commitment to sustainability and to technology.”
He told the event that buildings are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
“The energy used to power buildings accounts for about one third of all global energy demand and regrettably almost 40 percent of all of our associated CO2 emissions. So buildings contribute to global climate change and buildings are a huge source of pollution as a consequence of that. The fact is that they emit more carbon and more pollution than all of the cars, trucks, planes, and – cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes.”
According to the IPCC, “residential and commercial buildings” account for eight percent of total emissions while transport accounts for 13 percent.
Kerry concluded his speech by looking ahead to future U.N. climate conferences, including one in Warsaw next month.
“I can assure you this department will be and I will be laser-focused on how we are going to step up our response to the reality of the threat that climate change poses to all of us,” he said.
Earlier this year the journal Organization Studies – which is peer-reviewed – published the results of a survey of 1,077 professional engineers’ and geoscientists’ views on climate change.
Based on a breakdown of their views, it placed the respondents into five category groups. Only one of the five, accounting for 36 percent of the total, “express[ed] the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause.”
“They are the only group to see the scientific debate as mostly settled and the IPCC modeling to be accurate,” the survey found.
All four of the other groups, with slight variations, expressed varying degrees of skepticism about the asserted causes of climate change, the extent of public risk it poses, and the accuracy of IPCC modeling.
Recently, a team of scientists operating as the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) – an independent group which says it receives no government or corporate funding – released the second in a series of reports called Climate Change Reconsidered.
The authors of the 1,000-plus page report say it provides “the scientific balance that is missing from the overly alarmist reports” of the IPCC.
“Although the IPCC claims to be unbiased and to have based its assessment on the best available science, we have found this to not be the case,” the summary states. “In many instances conclusions have been seriously exaggerated, relevant facts have been distorted, and key scientific studies have been ignored.”
A key conclusion reached in the NIPCC report is that the IPCC “has exaggerated the amount of warming likely to occur if the concentration of atmospheric CO2 were to double, and such warming as occurs is likely to be modest and cause no net harm to the global environment or to human well-being.”
The NIPCC says its report was assembled by three lead authors, nearly 50 chapter lead authors as well as contributors and reviewers from 15 countries, and “was subjected to the common standards of peer-review.”