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  • 06-Jun-09 Why I am a Climate Realist
  • SEPP Science Editorial #16-2009
    (in TWTW Jun 6, 2009)

    Guest Editor

    Why I am a Climate Realist

    Jul 30, 2011
    Guest column by Dr Willem de Lange, University of Waikato, NZ, 23 May 2009

    In 1996 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Second Assessment Report was released, and I was listed as one of approximately 3000 scientists who agreed that there was a discernable human influence on climate.

    I was an invited reviewer for a chapter dealing with the economic impact of sea level rise on small island nations. In keeping with IPCC procedures, the chapter was written and reviewed in isolation from the rest of the report, and I had no input into the process after my review of the chapter draft. I was not asked if I supported the view expressed in my name, and my understanding at the time was that no evidence of a discernable human influence on global climate existed. The chapter I reviewed dealt primarily with the economic consequences of an assumed sea level rise of 1 meter causing extensive inundation. My response was that I could not comment on the economic analysis; however, I disagreed with the initial assumptions, particularly the assumed sea level rise in the stated time period. Further, there was good evidence at the time that sea level rise would not necessarily result in flooding of small island nations, because natural processes on coral atolls were likely to raise island levels. The IPCC Second Assessment Report assessed sea level rise by AD 2100 as being in the range 0.20-0.86 m, with a most likely value of 0.49 m (less than half the rate assumed for the economic analysis).

    Subsequent research has demonstrated that coral atolls and associated islands are likely to increase in elevation as sea level rises. Hence, the assumptions were invalid, and I was convinced that IPCC projections were unrealistic and exaggerated the problem.


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