The credibility of the IPCC is in tatters:
Humans have shrunk the habitats of many life forms, through unsustainable agriculture, fishing or hunting. And it is going to get even worse. Global warming is said to be threatening thousands of animal and plant species with extinction. That, at least, is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been predicting for years.
But the UN climate body now says it is no longer so certain. The second part of the IPCC's new assessment report is due to be presented next Monday in Yokohama, Japan. On the one hand, a classified draft of the report notes that a further "increased extinction risk for a substantial number of species during and beyond the 21st century" is to be expected. On the other hand, the IPCC admits that there is no evidence climate change has led to even a single species becoming extinct thus far.
At most, the draft report says, climate change may have played a role in the disappearance of a few amphibians, fresh water fish and mollusks. Yet even the icons of catastrophic global warming, the polar bears, are doing surprisingly well. Their population has remained stable despite the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap.
Ragnar Kinzelbach, a zoologist at the University of Rostock, says essential data is missing for most other life forms, making it virtually impossible to forecast the potential effects of climate change. Given the myriad other human encroachments in the natural environment, Kinzelbach says, "crocodile tears over an animal kingdom threatened by climate change are less than convincing."
The draft report includes a surprising admission by the IPCC -- that it doubts its own computer simulations for species extinctions. "There is very little confidence that models currently predict extinction risk accurately," the report notes. Very low extinction rates despite considerable climate variability during past hundreds of thousands of years have led to concern that "forecasts for very high extinction rates due entirely to climate change may be overestimated."
In the last assessment report, Climate Change 2007, the IPCC predicted that 20 to 30 percent of all animal and plant species faced a high risk for extinction should average global temperatures rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit). The current draft report says that scientific uncertainties have "become more apparent" since 2007.
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