Global Warming: My Read of the IPCC Report: What Level of Damage Can We Live With?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on Sunday stating that we must phase out the use of non-renewable energy sources by the end of the end of the century or face “severe, pervasive and irreversible damage.” At least that’s how the BBC reported it.

But the report is much more nuanced and frightening than that, despite it being toned down at the demand of oil-dependent governments. The report says other things that we should all already know:

  • Multiple strategies are available.
  • The longer we wait to make substantial changes, the more painful the costs will be.
  •  Some of the already existing damage (sea level rise, for example) will persist and even get worse for some time even if we immediately end dumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Interestingly, they spoke of perhaps pursuing strategies that allow us to live with a certain level of damage.

This report should make it clear that the issue isn’t about preventing damaging global warming – we’re already there – or even reversing global warming; it’s about what’s the best we can hope to live with at this point.

I hope I read the report with too pessimistic an eye.

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