Mood: don't ask
Picture: Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his shadow minister Peter Garrett argue today on global warming action.
The best world scientists way ahead of the UN politically constrained IPCC report are formally giving us fair warning as per this quality report on ABC World Today programme:
The World Today - Wednesday, 20 June , 2007 12:34:00
Reporter: Karen Barlow
While sceptics have criticised the United Nations scientific panel for being too extreme, these scientists are warning that it actually downplays the threat.
The scientists, including Dr James Hansen from NASA, say the United Nations reports have grossly underestimated the scale of sea-level rises that are likely this century.
Writing in the peer-reviewed British journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, they predict that sea levels will rise not by 40 centimetres by the turn of the century, but by several metres, as Karen Barlow reports.
KAREN BARLOW: The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being charged with grossly underestimating the impact of global warming.
The international grouping of scientists and policymakers predicted in February that sea levels would increase between 18 and 59 centimetres this century.
The Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr James Hansen, reports in a peer-reviewed paper that the IPCC report left out vital information in its calculations.
JAMES HANSEN: They actually only give a prediction for the thermal expansion of the ocean and the contribution of alpine glaciers, but the big issue is the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, especially West Antarctica, because that's beginning to lose mass, and it is situated on bedrock, which is below sea level, so it's potentially unstable and could give a very large sea level rise.
KAREN BARLOW: Ice sheet instability was mentioned briefly in the IPCC report, but Dr James Hansen says it wasn't calculated as it is difficult to predict.
He says he has no such misgivings.
JAMES HANSEN: We know enough from the Earth's history to say that if we follow business as usual path, with C02 emissions, that we guarantee instability of the West Antarctic ice sheet, with sea level rise eventually of several metres. And I would be very surprised if we didn't get one or two metres at least of sea level rise this century.
KAREN BARLOW: Three other scientists from the Goddard Institute were also involved in the paper, as were David Lea of the University of California and Mark Siddall from Columbia University.
They stand with Dr James Hansen in warning a point of no return will be reached in 10 years if world governments fail to seriously curb greenhouse gas emissions.
JAMES HANSEN: Imminent peril is perhaps an unusual phrase to have in a scientific paper, but it's, I think, very appropriate.
KAREN BARLOW: In the 1980s, Dr James Hansen became the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming, and he remains a vocal critic of the Bush administration's policies on climate change.
He has claimed that US Government figures have tried in the past to muzzle him.
Labor's Environment Spokesman, Peter Garrett, says today's paper is a serious warning.
PETER GARRETT: What they're clearly saying now is that we're getting perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control in the future.
KAREN BARLOW: But the Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, says he prefers to stick to the IPCC's version.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Dr Hansen is a controversial figure in climate change science. The vast majority of scientific opinion is in line with the IPCC's forecasts, which are, however, very serious indeed, and we all recognise that the impact of global warming is a very grave challenge, social challenge, political challenge and economic challenge.
KAREN BARLOW: Dr James Hansen defends his work as solid science.
JAMES HANSEN: I'm just saying that the implications of the kind of warnings that they talk about for business as usual are enormous, and they imply changes in the world which the public surely would not be willing to accept if they have anything to say about it.
ELEANOR HALL: And that's NASA scientist Dr James Hansen speaking to Karen Barlow.