Environmental expert Subhankar Banerjee breaks down the latest UN climate change report
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
In a new report just released on Friday, UN-backed climate change scientists have declared with 95 percent certainty that climate change is indeed man-made. The environmental panel on climate change has also called for a limit on greenhouse gas emissions, but say even with those limits, warming will likely continue for centuries.
Meanwhile, climate skeptics have rolled out their own campaign to challenge these dire findings.
Now joining us to discuss this report is Shubhankar Banerjee. He’s an environmental humanities scholar and activist. He founded ClimateStorytellers.org and is editor of the upcoming anthology Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point, which will be out in October.
Thank you so much for joining us, Subhankar.
SUBHANKAR BANERJEE, ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES SCHOLAR AND ACTIVIST: Thank you, Jaisal, for having me. It’s a pleasure.
NOOR: So, Subhankar, can you just lay out the most important findings of this report?
BANERJEE: Absolutely. What has been released, the viewers should understand, and what’s coming within the next year that IPCC will release, it’s actually a sequence of reports. And I’ll lay it out: it’s the most important report ever on human history. And the reason I say that this report–and viewers should understand that, that this report was prepared by world’s scientific–most prominent scientists around the world who are working on climate issues. More than 1,000 scientists from 55 countries have contributed to it, with 55,000 comments. And they have looked at more than 9,000 scientific literature. Mostly two-thirds of it has been published in the last–since 2007. So it has been really vetted. And that is the science side.
Then there is the policy side that needs to understand this is not just a scientific report, because all 190 countries had to sign off, their representatives had to sign off on this report.
So having said that, what has just been released is the first part of a multipart report. And this one looks at what is called the physical science basis, meaning based on paleoclimate data, what happened long back in the history, and current observations, direct observations, as well as modeling and future modeling. That’s what this report does. And what the report–this particular report is doing is it looks at the physical science aspect, meaning that the first question is: is global warming happening? And they say unequivocally (their word) global warming is happening.
The second big point–and those are the issues–the reason I bring up: because those are the issues climate skeptics or climate deniers would try to challenge. So global warming is happening. That’s unequivocal.
Second thing is that is it man-made. And as you said, with 95 percent certainty they say it is–humans are causing it. And this [incompr.] number is very important, because in 2007 they said at least 90 percent. Now they’re saying at least 95 percent. So if world scientific body is saying 95 percent probability that this is man-made, we should take this more seriously.
So the findings, the next thing is that what are the findings. The findings are that the world is warming and it’s warming fairly rapidly. The greenhouse gas concentration (their word) is going up at an unprecedented level. The ice sheet in Greenland is melting at an unprecedented rate in this, the first decade of this century. It has melted at a rate six times more than the prior decade. The sea ice of the Arctic is melting at an unprecedented rate and in a downward decline, and so is the Antarctic ice. Then the oceans are the most important. Ninety percent of this energy has been taken up by the oceans, which is then making the oceans acidic. And they also point out that the glaciers are melting, which will have very significant impact. So these are kind of what is happening.
The next report, which will come out potentially in March, looks like, will look at the impact of what does all this mean and how is it going to affect all aspects with the droughts and floods and fires and what have you will be looked at in the next report.
And then the third report will be on mitigation, what can we do about it.
NOOR: So, briefly, climate change skeptics have launched a new campaign, launched op-eds, billboards challenging this new report, and they claim that the UN and these scientists do not have the science to back their claims, and they are just continuing to deny that this is man-made. They say this is a natural phenomenon, among other arguments. Briefly, what’s your response?
BANERJEE: These are nothing but criminals, pure and simple. And what’s going on is that a few years ago to challenge these deniers you had to work a little bit hard. Now it is very serious to put them down, whatever arguments they are making, because what essentially they’re making people to understand is that what we need to look at is the long-term trend.
So what they do, they go into–when there is a local minima, meaning something just happened in a year or two, something went down a little bit, they look at that and raise hell about it. So the two things that they’re challenging right now is that in the last decade, the rate of warming apparently is less than the previous, the prior decade. And that’s nonsense, because the way to look at it is let’s say you’re building a house, and for whatever reason from the first floor, the second floor–you are a creative artist–few of those steps you make it slightly at a decline, slightly looking downward. So these climate skeptics hover like bats on those declining steps and look at it and say, look, it’s not global warming. Global warming stopped. It’s cooling.
These are climate zombies. So what we need to look at is the long-term trend. And all of the long-term trend completely–it’ll be very easy to put these deniers down this time around, because there is enormous scientific evidence now that any of their arguments–and in my current article, actually, I have completely disproved their arguments about the Arctic sea ice, because the scientific evidence is very overwhelming right now.
NOOR: Subhankar Banerjee, we’re going to continue this conversation in part two. Thank you so much for joining us in part one.
BANERJEE: Thank you, Jaisal.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.