Top climate scientists
will blame mankind more clearly than ever for global warming next week but may struggle to drive home the message in a report that uses the term “uncertainty’’ 42 times, a UN panel has said
The ‘language gap’ between scientists and the policy makers, public and media they seek to alert is proving hard to bridge, the report added.
Scientists say uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge in, for instance, calculating how much of Greenland will thaw or how fast temperatures will rise by 2100 but that policymakers and the public often mistake it for ignorance.
That gap in semantics may complicate the message of greater overall understanding of global warming in the report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due for release in Stockholm on September 27 after a final round of editing.
A final draft summary raises the probability that most climate change since the 1950s has a human cause to at least 95 per cent, from 90 in 2007 and 66 per cent in 2001.
Temperatures could rise by almost five degrees Celsius (9 F) by 2100, bringing enormous risks for society and nature.
Yet it also has the words “uncertainty’’ or “uncertainties’’ 42 times over 31 pages, according to a final draft obtained by Reuters, a comparable rate to 26 mentions in 18 pages in 2007.
Among the biggest uncertainties, it says, is how aerosols, such as air pollution, affect cloud formation.
The white tops of low clouds can reflect sunlight and so cool the Earth’s surface.
“When scientists are explicit about the underlying uncertainties an immediate response from decision-makers and the public is: ‘Oh, scientists do not really know what they are talking about,’’ said Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“This is actually an inappropriate response,’’ he said. Edenhofer, who is a co-chair of a separate IPCC report looking at costs of fixing the problem due in 2014, and all other experts, gave personal opinions and not details of the reports.
Society needs to understand uncertainty and risk, he said.
Unrelated to climate change, he noted that six scientists were sentenced to jail in Italy last year for manslaughter after wrongly reassuring people of low risks shortly before an earthquake killed more than 300 people in L’Aquila in 2009.
“We know more and more about the big picture’’ of climate change, said professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey and a lead author of the study to be issued in Stockholm.
“At exactly the same time we are getting more and more data about the little pictures which are much harder to explain.’’
Governments were no longer satisfied with estimates of global sea level rise, for instance, but wanted to know regional estimates, in places such as south England, to plan flood risks.
“The view of most people of science is that ‘scientists know things’. But it’s actually all about uncertainty,’’ said James Painter, head of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.
A study he published on Wednesday found that media focused on disasters and uncertainty in covering climate change and that it might be better to stress risks and business opportunities.
Scientists reckon the focus on uncertainty, by governments and the media, may brake action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“There’s a general frustration among scientists that we get more and more certain: why doesn’t more happen?’’ said Cecilia Mauritzen, head of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.
Scientists use a mixture of data and “expert judgement to decide how likely it is that climate change is man-made and rules out other factors, such as changes in the sun’s output.
The IPCC draft halves the likelihood that natural factors are to blame to five per cent from 10, the flip side of raising the probability that climate change is man-made to 95 per cent.
“It’s based on a discussion among the authors. There must be multiple lines of evidence,’’ said Eystein Jansen, of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Norway and one of the authors of the Stockholm draft.
A graph in the draft, reconstructing temperature rises in the 20th century, shows the trend cannot be explained without the warming effect of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere from cars, factories and power plants.
Those sceptical over human contribution to warming often say more certainty is needed before acting, something proponents of action reject given risks of floods, heat-waves, and rising sea levels.
Society may act on little certainty when risks are high.
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, for instance, once said that if there was one per cent chance that Pakistan was helping al Qaeda to develop nuclear weapons, then Washington had to treat it as a certainty in terms of its response.
Dan Kahan, a professor of Law and Psychology at Yale University, doubted that any change of certainty by the IPCC would have much impact on the public.
Governments have not cut rising emissions even though repeated surveys show that 97 to 98 per cent of climate scientists reckon warming is man-made.
“People fit evidence of what scientists believe like all other sorts of evidence – to the position that affirms their cultural identity,’’ he said.
In the U.S., Democrats are more likely to agree with climate science than Republicans.
And IPCC reports, stretching to about 3,000 pages, have had errors in the past, such as a mistake in 2007 that Himalayan glaciers might all melt by 2035, a big exaggeration of the thaw.
That has led to some criticisms that the IPCC stresses the negative effects of climate change.
A review by outside experts in the Inter-Academy Council in 2010 said that errors did not affect the IPCC’s overall conclusions but that authors should do more to nail down the probabilities of their predictions.
Sanitation Marshalls Warn Against Dumping Refuse In Gutters
The Coordinator of Rivers
State Sanitation Marshalls, Prince Sodin Akiaba has warned residents of Port Harcourt and it environs against dumping of refuse into drainages.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt, Prince Akiabo blamed uses of flooding in parts of Port Harcourt especially in the Mile III area of the indiscriminate dumping of refuse into the gutters.
He said that with the approach of the rainy season, there is need for caution on the part of the people against indiscriminate refuse disposal.
Prince Akiaba said that the situation could lead to massive flooding across the city thereby creating health problem for the people.
He said that there is need for neighbourhood vigilantees to check this situation.
“Every street in Port Harcourt should formed a vigilantee to monitor refuse disposal in their street.
“This is the only way to stop the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the drains,” he said.
The coordinator said that the sanitation marshalls can help the government to check this trend, if approval is given to that effect by the government.
He used the occasion to commend the Rivers State Ministry of Environment and the Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority for the efforts in keeping the city clean, but noted that the two agencies need to work with stakeholders for effective result.
NOSDRA Seeks Oil Spill Response Base
The National Oil Spill De
tection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has called on the military to establish an Oil Spill Response Base (OSRB) for quick intervention during oil spill emergencies.
Mr Peter Idabor, the Director General of the agency, made the call during a courtesy visit to Vice Admiral Usman Jibril, the Chief of Naval Staff, in Abuja.
Idabor said the base, if established, would serve as a veritable security for quick response and intervention by the agency during oil spill emergencies.
He recalled the Bonga oil spill incident and commended the Navy for providing a vessel to NOSDRA that ensured quick response.
According to him, crises usually occurred between affected communities and companies involved during oil spill emergencies.
He said partnership with the Navy had become critical due to its role in providing security to the maritime environment.
“It has become more critical for us to partner with the Nigerian Navy, especially when it has to do with issues relating to oil spill in this country.
“When there is a large oil spill, there is usually conflict between the community and the company involved.
“In most cases, it is sabotage and in such cases, we require the military to come in at certain point.’’
He said that most of the deaths in the Niger Delta had positive correlations with oil spillage.
He explained that people were at the risk of being affected by eating food that come from such polluted environment.
He also said the life span of most Nigerians was shortening due to the effect oil spill on the ecosystem.
“The attitudes of our oil explorers, especially when spills occur, it does not bother them that over a million of chemicals are spilled into the sea, which is very dangerous to health.
“The oil spill contaminate our aquatic resources and it affects the entire food chain as long as we survive on the food chain.’’
Responding, Jibril said the Navy was familiar with the operation of the agency, adding that it would support NOSDRA to stop oil spill in the country.
He said the force was also aware of the effects of oil spill to aquatic life and the environment.
The Navy Chief also commended the agency’s cooperation with the military, saying “you have reduced spillage and its attendant effects in the country within this few days.
“We are ready to contribute to stop oil spillage and we are ready to give to you information about spillage whenever they occur.
“Our new boats that we are importing from China have facilities to contain oil spillage.’’
He however, said the delay in the release of boats to the agency was to control their misuse and advised the agency’s management to henceforth, put in its administrative request at their time of need.
He gave an assurance that the Navy would reduce administrative bottlenecks to enable the agency to access the facility during emergencies.
Jibril, however, sought the support of NOSDRA in the provision of infrastructure to the force, saying, “we need to support one another to achieve our goals.
“We have the human capital base to do what we are trained to do; what we need more is the infrastructure and we call on other organisations to support us too.’’
N300m Debt Worries C’River Water Board
Mr James Buchan, the
General Manager (Operations) of Cross River State Water Board, said more than N300 million owed it by various consumers in the state posed a challenge to its operations.
Buchan said this in an interview with the newsmen in Calabar last week, saying that the board was worried about the debt.
He said the board spent an average of N25 million monthly on diesel and chemicals to sustain water supply, urging the consumers who owed to settle their bills.
The general manager said that the state government paid its water bills regularly, urging the consumer’s to emulate the government by paying their bills to avoid disconnection.
Buchan further advised the consumers to always make genuine complaints about the services of the board to guarantee uninterrupted clean water supply.
The manager also urged consumers to shun illegal connection and to report to the board, those, including its staff members, who engaged in fraudulent activities.
“We want to supply to the public well treated water, we want to provide 24 hours service to the people, but we can only do this with the help of the people,’’ he said.
Buchan promised that Geographic Information System had been put in place to streamline the operations of the board and improve services.
He said the board was also worried over the damage of its pipelines worth more than N300 million by road construction companies in the state.
Buchan said the board had, however, drawn the attention of the officials of the concerned construction companies to the development.
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