That’s One Small Step for the IPCC; One Giant Leap for Understanding Our Climate Risk

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a “special report” (that’s what they call topical reports they publish in between their better known comprehensive assessments) today that is worth a close look for anyone who wants to start getting ready for a future with weirder and often harsher weather.

About a year ago I published an opinion editorial taking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to task for neglecting risk-based information to help decision makers cope with inevitable uncertainties about the future impacts of climate change:

Since uncertainty is endemic to the future, when the second IPCC assessment concluded in 1995 that ‘The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on the global climate’, the IPCC should have reconvened around the risk implications of this probable human influence. Instead, it redoubled its effort to reduce physical science uncertainties [which will not be resolved before action is required].

Yes, You’ve Come to the Right Place

For those of you who came to our website today expecting to find information and resources from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, please don’t click away. Today we announced an exciting transition. We are now C2ES — the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. In addition to changing our name, we’ve refreshed our mission and strategic approach, updated our website, and made other changes to ensure that we can continue to craft real solutions to the energy and climate challenges we face today.

Yes, a great deal has changed in the last 24 hours. But what hasn’t changed is the need for straight talk, common sense and common ground. Today’s climate and energy issues present us with real challenges — and real opportunities as well. This is about protecting the environment, our communities and our economy. And it is about building the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable future.

Global Warming Facts & Figures

Divided into five different sections, our recently updated Global Warming Facts & Figures explain the scientific evidence for human impacts on the climate system, specifically global warming.
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GHG Intensity

Greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity is a measure of the amount of emissions relative to GDP. it is highest in Russia and China with the United States below the world average.

Sources: International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics (2009)
                 International Energy Agency, CO2 Highlights (2011)
                 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International Non CO2 Projections (2012) 

Per Capita GHG Emissions

Per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are highest in the United States and Russia, followed by Japan and the EU-27.

Sources: World Bank, Population Data (2012)
                  International Energy Agency, CO2 Highlights (2011)
                  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International Non CO2 Projections (2012) 

Summer Minimum Temperature

This figure shows extremes in summer minimum temperatures for the U.S. since 1910. In general, nighttime temperatures are warming faster due to global warming than daytime temperatures. In recent years, warm extremes have vastly outnumbered cold extremes.

Source: NOAA/NCDC U.S. Climate Extremes Index


This figure shows the size of U.S. wildfires over a 25 year period from 1983 to 2008. Wildfire season is now longer on average and increases in wildfire frequency have been greatest in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests where land use histories have little effect on fire risks. (Westerling, 2006)

Source: USGCRP/National Interagency Fire Center

Extreme Precipitation

Increased moisture in the atmosphere as a result of warming temperatures increases the risk of extreme precipitation events. In the United States, the frequency of heavy downpours has increased by almost 20 percent on average. The following figure shows changes in the number of days with heavy precipitation since 1958 on a regional basis.

Source: US GCRP, Groisman et al, (2009)

Extreme Temperature

Increasing temperatures cause a corresponding increase in extreme high temperatures and heat waves. Over the past decade, record high temperatures now occur about twice as often as record lows. In the 1950s this ratio was about one-to-one.


The top figure shows dryness trend as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index from 1900 to 2002 for different regions of the world. For most areas, drier (red and yellow) conditions are now significantly more common than wetter (blue and green) conditions. The bottom figure shows the trend over time of increasing drought, indicating that for much of the world, droughts are more common.

Source: IPCC AR4, Adapted from Dai et al, (2004)

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