(CNN) — Human activity has caused at least half of climate change in the last half century, hundreds of scientists say. They are 95% certain of this, the surest they’ve ever been, says a United Nations report published Friday.
That activity? Driving cars, running power plants on coal and oil, torching swathes of forestland and debris; anything involving burning carbon-based fuels and emitting greenhouse gasses.
The Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the benchmark study on global warming published every few years. Nearly 1,000 researchers from around the world work on the document, which then undergoes review by about as many scientists.
The IPCC released a summary report Friday and plans to post the full version, roughly 2,500 pages, online on Monday.
This year’s report further strengthens the suspicions scientists have already ascertained.
In 2007, the climate researchers were already 90% sure people were behind a seemingly small rise in global average temperature of about half a degree Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) that has already notched up extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and flooding.
The effects they are already causing are expected to increase for a century or more, the report reads. Weather catastrophes, previously called storms of the century, are on their way to striking every 20 years or even more frequently.
This means, unfortunately, we could see more EF5 tornadoes like the one that ground up Moore, Oklahoma, stronger and more floods like those that inundated Colorado towns, another Sandy or Katrina or two in our lifetimes, more crops wiped out by drought, larger forests consumed by roaring wildfires.
The Arctic ice cap could melt nearly completely in summer, and sea levels would continue to rise. In the Antarctic, the ice cap could continue to increase slightly.
And if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb as they have, the resulting temperature rise and its deadly effects would get even worse, the report says.
Hundreds of experts weigh in
The 2013 Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brings together the latest research from top scientists around the field. It contains a “summary for policymakers” aimed at guiding politicians and lawmakers worldwide on decisions regarding the environment over the next several years.
The document released Friday explains the physical behind climate change.
The U.N. panel releases a report every five or six years. Friday’s report is the culmination of work by over 250 authors from 39 countries and was subject to an extensive review process involving more than 1,000 experts.
More than 850 expert authors from 85 countries contributed research for the full report, which will be released in three stages through April. The first, on the physical science behind climate change, accompanies the summary for policymakers. The second, expected in March, will cover “impacts and vulnerabilities” of climate change; the third, on mitigation efforts, is set to go out in April.
Critics of the report
Despite the overall breadth of the scientific expertise involved, and the extensive review and approval process, the IPCC Assessment Reports spark quite a few criticisms, from both climate change believers and skeptics.
Skeptics claim the IPCC exists only to produce further evidence supporting the idea of man-made climate change while ignoring opposing research. But climate change activists, and many climate scientists, believe that the IPCC’s consensus-seeking policy produces conclusions and estimates that are too conservative.
Another often-cited critique of the report is that, due to its size and lengthy approval process, it is already outdated by the time it is released. Several important studies already have been published in the past year in the constantly evolving science of climate change that will not be included in this assessment.
Despite the critics, this week’s document will serve as a major measuring stick for the current state of the world’s climate and what type of change is in store.
The summary for policymakers will be available Friday at www.climatechange2013.org.