Today, the IPCC workshop "Sea Level Rise and Ice Sheet Instabilities" has begun. In Kuala Lumpur. I am reporting here becauses of a number of interesting details and of interesting invited talks.
Among the interesting details were introductory talks by political officials – who welcomed the presence of the conference in the capital of Malaysia, and demonstrated the importance of the topic by pointing to the evidence of climate change, which would become obvious by all kind of extreme weather, mostly related to typhoons and flooding. It seems that also in this part of the world the view has firmly be established among politicians that all extreme weather is due to anthropogenic climate change – which would imply that "stopping" Global Warming would go along with the end of weather extremes.
This was said in public in front of, say 100 climate scientists and science administrators (incl. Dr. Pachauri) , and – of course, nobody said anything. They did not take this talking seriously – assuming that the horizon for forgetting such talk would be really short. But then, one of the co-chairs of Working Group 1, which is organizing the conference, pointed bravely and explicitly to the extra challenge that the provision of valid scientific knowledge to the public and stakeholders would have to talk place in a politically charged environment.
Seemingly, this politically charged environment had just been demonstrated minutes earlier – illustrating nicely the presence of two competing knowledge claims, the media-cultural one (according to which extreme weather is due to Global Warming) and the scientific body of knowledge. When I was earlier last week a witness of the Interacademy Council (IAC) in Montreal, I had indeed suggested that the IPCC would try to analyse the different, competing knowledge claims, to allow for an efficient communication, to give the science an edge in this competition.
The interesting science talks dealt with the contribution of ice sheets (mostly Greenland) to global mean sea level. Dramatic changes have taken place with the Greenland ice mass, mainly since 1995. The problem is that the time series are short and the dynamics of ice sheets is slow. So, nobody can say if the recent changes are related to the elevated levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or not. More time is needed to observe Greenland – but such ongoing observational need is no reason to not considering and possibly implementing available countermeasures required in case the hypothesis of a man-made change turns out to be plausible. On the other hand, there are no process-based dynamic ocean-ice sheet models available, which could describe the various processes in some detail. The understanding of the interaction between these two components is rather limited, and surprising insights may turn up at any time. But the culprit of "basal lubrication" was declared of mostly irrelevant for the future of the Greenland ice sheet. This issue is one of the "hot topics" of present climate science. Stay tuned.