By all accounts, the IPCC’s report this year was its starkest warning yet about the risks we face from climate change. What they couldn’t tell us, despite almost everyone in the room being aware of it, was that more up to date research was available showing that the climate is changing faster than all their models and scenarios had shown in the past. The problem is that in order to reach a consensus on the research, only scientific research that is at least a year old is considered, so everyone has time to read it, review it and argue its merits. That means the February 2007 report was based on research no more recent than 2005.
Perhaps the sceptics are on to something when they complain that the models are poor and imprecise and that the IPCC has a strong political element. It is the imprecision of the models and the political interference at the table that means the message is horribly watered down. The scientific evidence is continuously mounting that the IPCC is forever under predicting the anthropogenic contribution to climate change. Jim Hansen calls this problem ‘scientific reticence’.
If you want a great collection and commentary on the latest wave of climate research, particularly as regards Arctic Sea ice and Greenland, download The Big Melt, Lessons from the Arctic Summer of 2007. I’d be tempted to call the authors alarmist, except that they’re quoting the IPCC scientist’s peer reviewed literature, not making stuff up on the fly the way so many sceptics do.