The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to issue its strongest warning yet that climate change is caused by humans, and that the world will see more heat waves, droughts and floods unless governments take action to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The IPCC report, released every six years, incorporates the key findings from thousands of articles published in scientific journals, concluding with at least 95 percent certainty that human activities have caused most of Earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future. “Drought is the number one threat we face from climate change because it affects the two things we need to live: food and water,” says Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground. We also speak to Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is set to issue, Friday, it’s strongest warning yet that climate change is caused by humans and will cause more heat waves, droughts, and floods unless governments take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The IPCC releases their report every six years. It incorporates the key findings from thousands of articles published in scientific journals. The IPCC began meeting earlier this week in Stockholm ahead of the report’s release. This is the IPCC Chairperson Rajendra Pachauri.
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: This working group one session will approve the summary of policymakers an acceptable report. This is happening at a time when the world is awaiting the outcome of this session with great expectation because of its obvious significance in respect of the current status of global negotiations, and the ongoing debate on actions to deal with the challenge of climate change.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The IPCC report is expected to conclude with at least 95% certainty that human activities have caused most of earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future. That is up from a confidence level of 90% in 2007 report, the last or the assessment came out. Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute released a report this week by group of climate change skeptics called a Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC. The 1200 page report disputes the reality of man-made climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: For more Greenpeace International’s Executive Director Kumi Naidoo remains with us and we’re joined by Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology at The Weather Underground. On Friday, he’ll host the Weather Channel’s live coverage of the release of the IPCC’s report. He is joining us here in New York studio ahead of attending Climate Week in New York. Today he moderates a panel on innovative ways to combat climate change. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!. Jeff Masters, the significance of this report that is being released tomorrow.
JEFF MASTERS: It is huge because we only see one of these reports every six years, and it lays out a very authoritative and unarguable case, that climate change is happening, humans humans are mostly responsible, it’s going to accelerate and there are things we can do to slow down this sort of climate change upon us.
AMY GOODMAN: And this report of the nongovernmental panel, Heartland Institute?
JEFF MASTERS: It is what you’d expect from basically lobbyists who are working for the fossil fuel industry, whose profits are threatened by the scientific findings of the IPCC. You would expect this sort of blowback by the fossil fuel industry to dispute the science, to cast doubt, to play up some of the arguments against it, which really aren’t under dispute by scientists.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the conclusions are those, not just of the scientists, but also, isn’t there sovereign government involvement in the findings as well? Could you explain that for people who are not familiar with how the IPCC works.
JEFF MASTERS: The IPCC is kind of a unique hybrid because it is not just a scientific organization. All of its results have to be approved by government representatives. So, this week in Stockholm, the scientist have presented their information and each government — 195 in total — have to go line by line through the report and approve it. So, the politicians have a say in what is in the final report. As a result, the report is very conservative because everyone has to agree — it’s unanimous approval required.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, what needs to be done?
JEFF MASTERS: We have to do two things, we have to cut down our emissions of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide and we have to adapt, we have to get prepared for the coming climate change storm as I call it. It is already here. We are already seeing the impacts, and we better get ready.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In terms of what has been leaked about it so far, some of the conclusions may be a little bit surprising. For instance, on the relationship between climate change and hurricanes and typhoons, what do they say they’re?
JEFF MASTERS: They have reduced their amount of certainty that we’ve already seen changes in intense hurricanes due to human causes. So, that reflects kind of the going scientific work that has been happening which is not sure. There is a lot of variability in hurricanes naturally; hard to tell if they are actually changing now due to a changing climate. So, that is one positive maybe we can take out of the report. We’re not sure we’re actually seeing an impact on hurricanes and typhoons.
AMY GOODMAN: How does Colorado fit into this picture — the thousand year flood? And then in India in June, something like 5700 people died in floods.
JEFF MASTERS: One thing we are pretty sure of is that climate change is already causing an increase in extreme rainfall events, particularly in North America. These are the type of events that we saw this year in Colorado and again in Asia. We have seen an increasing number of very heavy precipitation events, the kind that are most likely to cause some of the extreme floods we’ve seen in recent years.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to bring Kumi back into the conversation. You’re here for the United Nations General Assembly and obviously President Obama spoke this week at the General Assembly. Your assessment of what he did or didn’t say about climate change?
KUMI NAIDOO: He hardly mentioned climate change. The thing about it is, even the CIA and Pentagon in 2003 in a report that was present even to President Bush, which he chose to bury it as somebody who was in effect an agent of the fossil fuel industry. That report suggests in the coming decades, the biggest threat to peace, security and stability will not come from conventional threats of terrorism and so on, but will come from the impacts of climate change. So, if any head of state, any political leader is concerned about peace, security, and stability, then they should be using the platforms at the United Nations now to talk about the biggest urgency this planet has ever faced. We are talking already of serious impacts, particularly in the developing world. We are seeing lives being lost. Darfur, I would argue, as the Secretary General of the United Nations argue, the genocide in Darfur, was certainly intensified, and exacerbated as a result of climate impacts. Lake Chad, one of the largest inland seas in the world that neighbors Darfur has largely, to use the words of the Secretary General of the U.N., shrunk to the size of a pond. And then, the Sahara Desert is marching from Senegal to the Sudan southwards at the rate of one mile a year. So, water scarcity, land scarcity and together food scarcity was the trigger. So, when you see all that happening, when heads of state are talking about all these sort of interventions around chemical weapons, all of which are important, but the biggest threat to peace and security is coming already from climate change and it is going to intensify. In that sense, I was deeply disappointed that President Obama didn’t make that connection.
AMY GOODMAN: What could the U.S. be doing right now?
KUMI NAIDOO: The U.S. needs to recognize, firstly, that they are compromising their economic future because the U.S. needs to forget about the arms race, space race, and so on. The only race that is going to matter in terms of which countries and companies will be competitive in the future is those countries and companies that get as far ahead of the green race as possible. The U.S. needs to take leadership. The world is hungry for U.S. leadership in climate negotiations and —
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, President Obama, in his speech, was making the case for how the U.S. is exceptional.
KUMI NAIDOO: Yes, and the thing about it is, that case, the way it gets read, speaking beyond climate change now, is an approach by the U.S. of do as we tell you to do, don’t do as we say — sorry, do as we say, not as we do. Because, the U.S., if you take on torture, they are signatories to the anti-torture conventions, but we’ve got waterboarding, we’ve got Guantanamo, we’ve got extraordinary rendition. On respecting human rights and not violating peoples privacy without their knowledge — people around the world are saying things like, we had so much optimism in Obama. President Obama was saying, yes we can, yes we can, but with all of this NSA spying, maybe he was saying, yes we scan, yes we scan, yes we scan.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about what is happening in Ecuador. Last month, Ecuador dropped a plan to preserve swaths of Amazon rain forest from oil drilling by having wealthy countries pay them not to drill. President Rafael Correa said “The plan to save parts of Yasuni National Park had raised only a fraction of the money sought.” He said, “The world has failed us.” This week I had a chance to interview Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño over at the Ecuador mission to the United Nations about the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. He said, simply, that it failed to attract sufficient funding.
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] All over the world, natural resources are being exploited without a great deal of concern about the impacts of that exploitation. And we appeal to the world and we said we are willing to sacrifice 50% of the income that could potentially be generated, but the world has to contribute and we said if the international community would cover the other 50%, we were willing to completely preserve the area of the Yasuni-ITT and not exploit the oil indefinitely. But, the world’s response was negative. We only got very few million of dollars. And we said if we don’t — if the world doesn’t respond to our appeal we are going to have to exploit this oil because we need these resources and the resulting income. After having done — appealed and appealed and appealed and not see and echo to our appeal, Ecuador decided to exploit the oil without affecting the surface of Yasuni.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño. President Correa didn’t come to the U.N. He didn’t think that the way it is set up, the speeches of countries like Ecuador have an impact. But, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, what about what is going to happen to the Yasuni and how important it is?
KUMI NAIDOO: This is a tragedy that what was a innovative and creative way of ensuring that people and nature were actually protected has not been responded to by the international community. It is a reflection of a skewed sense of where we should be investing our global resources at the moment. If we look at the amount of money that is going into — taxpayer money — that is going into fossil fuel subsidies, to the tune of $1,4 trillion [$1.4 trillion] a year annually. A fraction of that money — tiny fraction of that money could have actually secured this very, very fragile part of the world. People need to realize, in the past when people talked about protecting forests, it was seen as it’s all about biodiversity, protecting certain species, and if you like nature. Today, people misunderstand that forests are the lungs of the planet. It is fundamentally connected to the challenge of climate change. Forests capture and store carbon safely. And the more we deplete our forests — and the rate we are depleting our force at the moment is every two seconds a forest the size of a football field is disappearing as we speak. So, our political leaders, but especially in rich countries who have not come up with the money I think history will judge them very, very harshly.
AMY GOODMAN: A group of leading environmentalists have sent a letter pleading with him not to move ahead, even if the international community failed him because indigenous people in the area are rising up saying, do not develop this, do not drill here. UNESCO designated the park as a world biosphere reserve. It contains 100,000 species of animal, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
KUMI NAIDOO: So, I mean, I think that underscores the disconnect with regard to getting our priorities right. And also, I think what you’re seeing, is that so long as the countries who historically built their economies on fossil fuels, the U.S. and most of the developed countries of the world, if they continue to be saying, we’re going to continue with further fossil fuel like the tar sands and fracking, and so on, it makes it really difficult for organizations like Greenpeace to actually lobby with developing countries to say, you’re going to have to leave that coal in the ground and the oil in the soil. When they say, but those folks are still continuing. So, we are playing political poker with the future of the planet and the future of our children. And what you are seeing is a terrible case of cognitive dissonance. All of the facts are telling us we are running out of time, and our leaders continue as business as usual.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeff Masters, I think you’re supposed to be on a panel with Michael Bloomberg today on this issue. He certainly has sufficient funds in his own personal bank account to help Ecuador with saving the Yasuni. You may raise the issue to him when you’re on the panel. But, I would like to ask you a little bit more about the IPCC report — what we know about it, because, obviously, it won’t be released until tomorrow. What it says about droughts and the future prospects for the planet and specifically how it relates to some of the issues or the conflicts that we are seeing the world, even now, and also about the acidity in the oceans.
JEFF MASTERS: Drought is the number-one threat we face from climate change because it affects the two things we need to live, food and water. The future projections of drought are rather frightening. We see large areas of the world, particularly the ones that are already dry, are expected to get drier, and that’s going to greatly challenge our ability to grow food there and provide water for people. I was a little disappointed in the leaked draft that I’ve seen of the IPCC report. It doesn’t mention drought at all in the text. There is a mentioned of drought in a single table that they have there showing that, well, we are not really sure we’ve seen changes in drought due to human causes yet, but, we do think the dry air is going to get drier and this is going to be a problem in the future. So, yeah, a huge issue, drought. Really not addressed very well in the summary. I’m sure the main body of the report, that will be released Monday, will talk a lot about drought. The second issue you raised, the acidity of the oceans, yeah, that we’re sure we have seen an influence. There’s been a 26% increase in the acidity of the oceans since pre-industrial times and the pH has dropped by 0.1 units. That’s going to have severe impact on the marine communities we think and it’s only going to accelerate. They’re saying, pretty much with 99% certainty the oceans are going to get more acidic and it is due to human causes.
AMY GOODMAN: On drought, can you talk about Syria?
JEFF MASTERS: Yeah. In Syria, they’re having their worst drought in over 70 years. There have been climate model studies done showing that the drought in that region of the world in particular is very likely more probable due to human causes. If you run a climate model both with and without the human increase in greenhouse gases, you see a large perturbation in the drought conditions there in the Mediterranean region. So, we’re pretty sure that drought is a factor there. And in Syria in particular, I mean, people have migrated over a million people have had to leave their homes because of drought. They moved into the cities. They don’t have jobs there. It’s caused more unrest and directly contributed to the unrest there.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s an interesting analysis. Kumi.
KUMI NAIDOO: Absolutely. Others have actually pointed to the big trigger for the conflict in Syria as being climate impacts particularly drought. But, if you look at even Egypt and you look at all the countries that went through the so-called Arab spring — I say so-called because I don’t think the struggle for justice is a seasonal activity. But, the Arab resistance, you see in all of those countries there has been water stress as well. Some of us have been saying for more than a decade now, the future will not be fought over oil, but it will be fought over water if we don’t actually get it right. I mean, our political leaders must understand people cannot drink oil, that people need — I mean, if you look at fracking in the United States, right, the potential danger that has to water security because of the impact on the water table, it is really taking risks. And in South Africa, by the way, Shell has got a contract to stop fracking in the Karoo. And again, extremely water stressed area to start with. So, we really need our political leaders to connect the dots. Because, basically, what you see as a problem is a silo mentality to governance. Because we put environment and climate change here, and we put peace and security here, we put food and agriculture here. All of these things are connected and we need the leadership we need now is leaders who can think in an intersectoral way and understand the connections of the different global problems we face.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeff Masters, once this report is issued, what happens next in terms of there are further reports that will come out in early 2014?
JEFF MASTERS: That’s right. This is only the first part of a big four-part series. This only talks about what has actually happened to the climate and what the models predict — project will happen. In March, there is going to be a whole other section which is going to talk about what are some of the impacts of this? And then there will be a further report, what can we do about it? How can we reduce the impacts? So, this is going to take over a year to play out.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Masters, skeptics are paying a lot of attention to a part of the leaked report. The IPCC said the rate of warming between ’98 and 2007 was about half the average rate since 1951.
JEFF MASTERS: They like to put in a frame something which they can use to challenge the report. I look at that sort of incidents as a speed bump on kind of the highway of climate change. We expect natural variability to play a role here. We’ve got various cycles in the atmosphere, in ocean, El Niño and La Niña, the sun changes it’s brightness some. We expect to see these sorts of slowdowns, and we expect this accelerations as well. If you go back and look at the 15-year period ending in 2006, the rate of warming was almost double what it was the previous 15 years. Nobody paid attention to that.
AMY GOODMAN: Was Colorado climate change, the 1000 year flood?
JEFF MASTERS: We can say that those sorts of events become more common. You roll the dice — you load the dice in favor of more extreme precipitation events. So, you role double sixes more often and maybe every now and then you can roll a 13.
AMY GOODMAN: Are meteorologist on television ever going to start flashing those words “climate change” as often as they flash the words “extreme weather” or “severe weather”?
JEFF MASTERS: Depends on what there producer says. They are beholden to what the producer says and some are on board and many are not.
KUMI NAIDOO: Amy, if I could just jump in, there’s a lesson from history in the United States here that is helpful. If you look at when the scientific evidence around tobacco was clear and the consensus was clear that tobacco was bad for you, there was still a very powerful lobby of scientists funded by the tobacco industry to actually contaminate the public conversation, delay the policy changes that were necessary and so one. We are seeing a carbon copy of that same approach. And I would say to the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, also there is another thing you need to learn from. When anti tobacco litigation started in the early days, the CEOs of tobacco companies were arrogant and said it will never succeed, they never took it seriously. Climate litigation is starting now and the fossil fuel companies are actually being dismissive. I say to the fossil fuel industry leaders, go and ask your CEOs of tobacco companies which is the biggest amount of money that they have to have in their annual budgets [unintelligible], because it has to be — it is often in the legal department because of the scale of settlements. So, I think one expectation once the report is out is that the huge amount of money that goes into lobbying is going to do everything to actually rubbish this report and try and take selectively pieces of information. I think the American people in particular must interrogate the fact for every member of Congress there is between three and seven full-time lobbyists paid by the oil, coal, and gas sector. And they have actually held back the possibility of the U.S. being a global leader in renewable technology and that’s going to hurt the U.S. economy in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo and Jeff Masters, thank you so much for being with us. Of course we’ll continue this conversation. Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International. Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology at Weather Underground. He will be hosting Weather Channel’s live coverage of the release of the IPCC’s report tomorrow. When we come back, Matt Taibbi is with us of Rolling Stone on “Looting the Pensions Funds.”