By Helen Gavaghan, Lausanne. 3 July, 2019.

There is a mismatch between science conclusions on climate change and the political Will to address consequences of what the science indicates, said Hoesung Lee, chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) this evening at its annualThis should read biennial, not annual. meeting held this year in Lausanne, Switzerland*. The IPCC is the organisation tasked with quality control of science underpinning the assertion that human activity is causing the average global temperature to rise above what would otherwise be the case. That temperature increase puts additional energy into the atmosphere, with the rise being greater than average at the polar ice caps. The additional energy has to be dissipated in some way, in, for example, storms or regional climate modifications.

The problem arises because of gases such as carbon dioxide, which are given off when burning oil and coal. Carbon dioxide (and other gases) prevents heat escaping from the Earth, trapping warmth as though in a greenhouse. The data underpinning the observation of a global average rise in temperatures are extensive**, and beyond the control of any power lobby or individual nation to manipulate. The science of the consequences of such temperature rises is not in anyway new. The well established laws of thermodynamics drive the meteorological changes.

Human behaviour contributes to the problem both by adding "greenhouse" gases to the atmosphere and treating Earth's natural environment in a way which takes away the Earth's natural ability to sequester damaging gases. Though the problem is both known and incontrovertible, political countermeasures are not in line with the need science has revealed, and Lee told the WFSJ he did not know why. Though there are resource issues they are only a part of why politics is not responding, he said. In Lee's view infrastructure is important. "I live in a City with good mass transport, but if I lived in another part of the country or another country I may not have that luxury." Lee added that though the consumption in the developed world of an item might have a comparatively low carbon footprint, the item consumed does not, and may well have a much high carbon footprint created in other parts of the world.

Lee said that the global carbon dioxide levels must peak as soon as possible, and start to decline. Changes in behaviour which combat global climate warming must be sustainable, he said. The IPCC's next major report is due out in September. Lee was unsure whether it would include analysis of what is leading to the gap between science conclusions and political action, because he was uncertain whether the needed information on political motivations exists.

*4th July, 2019. Minor modification to a preposition, made for clarification. ** Data are, of course, plural.

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