Another thing to fear about climate change is how much scientists still don’t know.
By Karl Mathiesen and Zia Weise, 20 Mar 2023
But a sprawling assessment of tens of thousands of scientific papers on the state of the planet, released Monday, pointed to another unsettling truth: Scientists still don't have answers to many of the questions that will define how well the world copes with the worst of climate change.
In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes a world of long-foreseen impacts arriving now with shocking power. Human suffering — especially among the poor — will increase rapidly in the coming decades. The symbolic limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius will almost certainly be breached.
There is still an opportunity to avert the very bleakest scenarios, with the shift toward clean energy moving faster than expected, the report also notes.
But in many critical areas, IPCC scientists say the world is flying blind into the storm.
By the time they publish their next report — at the end of this decade — there will be more clarity about where global temperatures will peak. Green policies will have triggered social and economic transformation, with major benefits — and major upheaval.
That means there are still far too many unknowns to say with certainty how and when the most devastating impacts will hit.
“Generally, science is still lagging policy,” said Piers Forster, an IPCC author and director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.
“We need a living laboratory mentality to test ideas in open and transparent ways to really learn about how to transform society. Otherwise, we’ll be going with technologies according to who shouts loudest rather than the best.”