Science Informing Policy: Preparing for COP15.
A detailed assessment of climate research completed since the IPCC AR4 report was released today (24 Nov 2009) in “The Copenhagen Diagnosis".

"The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science"

The authors highlight eight of the most significant recent scientific findings, and state that "urgent emissions reductions are required." As expressed by Professor Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), "This is a final scientific call for the climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen". Schellnhuber is referring to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting (COP 15) to be held 7-18 December 2009 in Denmark. It is hoped that the Copenhagen meeting will result in a new binding agreement to follow on the Kyoto Protocol, but leaders are expressing doubt about such an outcome (read Revkin editorial in dot earth).

The new evidence reported on in "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" include:

  • Satellite and direct measurements now demonstrate that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea level rise at an increasing rate.
  • Arctic sea-ice has melted far beyond the expectations of climate models. For example, the area of summer sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
  • Sea level has risen more than 5 centimeters over the past 15 years, about 80% higher than IPCC projections from 2001. Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit by this time. This is much higher than previously projected by the IPCC. Furthermore, beyond 2100, sea level rise of several meters must be expected over the next few centuries.
  • In 2008 carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were ~40% higher than those in 1990. Even if emissions do not grow beyond today's levels, within just 20 years the world will have used up the allowable emissions to have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

    The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to ten years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases need to reach near-zero well within this century.

    Read the full press release for "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" here, and watch for information from Press Conferences held today in Australia (University of New South Wales) and Vienna.

    One of the scientists involved in "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" is Eric Steig, a Professor in the Earth and Space Sciences Department and Director of the Quaternary Research Center here at the University of Washington. Steig's work, as well as that of other scientists involved in the UW Program on Climate Change (e.g. Dennis Lettenmaier, CEE, Greg Johnson, NOAA and UW Oceanography and Chris Sabine, NOAA and UW Oceanography), are referenced in this assessment. Many of the authors and contributors to "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" were also involved in the international scientific congress on climate change in March 2009, "Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions". The synthesis report and links to presenter abstracts and powerpoint presentations from this congress are available at: Whereas "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" is an assessment of recent climate related data and implications of these data, the earlier scientific congress is a synthesis of "fundamental climate science, impacts of climate change on society and the environment, and potential approaches to dealing effectively with climate change".

    The UW Program on Climate Change, in partnership with JISAO's Climate Impact Group, organizes outreach and informal education efforts directed at providing the public with accurate information about the science of climate change. Climate scientists from the UW will be joining many in the week before and during this years' AGU Fall Meeting (8 -18 December) to address journalists' questions as they draft news articles on the negotiations in Copenhagen.

    "The Copenhagen Diagnosis"
    Read the flipbook at

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