A new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned Monday that global warming is likely to become completely irreversible if no successful effort is made to slow down the trend before 2006.
Unless greenhouse-gas emissions are drastically reduced by then, the report concludes, it will be too late to avoid inflicting a grave environmental catastrophe upon future generations.
"We have absolutely no time to waste," said Dr. William Tumminelli, lead author of the report…
It's a joke, but as usual these secret satirists get it exactly right.
Let me offer an example, from my recent trip to the ginormous annual American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, where the Moscone Center is invaded every December by 18,000 scientists.
At perhaps the biggest press conference this year, with James Hansen, the world's pre-eminent climatologist, Ken Caldeira, a leading expert on ocean acidification, and Eelco Rohling, a European paleoclimatology expert, I think most of the reporters asked the irreversibility question.
Probably the most published of scientific reporters, Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press, began by asking the panel if we have passed the tipping point of global warming.
(Interestingly, he asked the question but didn't write about Hansen's warning at this conference, if his Twitter stream can be trusted.)
Perhaps the veteran AP reporter considered it old news. Hansen has been staying the same thing at nearly every one of the American Geophysical Union conferences I've attended, going back to 2007, which is that the situation is dead serious and "we simply can't afford to burn all the fossil fuels."
But it wasn't just Borenstein. The Independent, The Nation, and another reporter, each in his own way, asked the same basic question.
For Hansen, the question misses the point. Even we have tipped over into a new climate regime, as seems obvious to most Americans, we can still choose to moderate the damage.
[Hansen in the press room at the AGU, talking to enterprising Steve Connor of The Independent]