There's further confirmation that we're all being slowly cooked.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued a report stating that global warming and its effects are "unequivocal."
"Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and that concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased," said Qin Dahe, co-chair of a working group that produced the report.
The report doesn't come as a complete surprise. Just this May, a terrible milestone was recorded when the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. But now that the leading global body on the subject is asserting that there is a 95 percent certainty human beings are causing this catastrophic phenomenon, it is quite a sobering moment.
In its previous report, issued in 2007, the panel had asserted a 90 percent probability of human cause. The Guardian has a series of charts showing how the situation has degenerated since then. Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption have considerably increased, as has the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared a Nobel in 2007 with Al Gore for its work, has faced a lot of challenges in its rise to prominence over the last few years. Conspiracy-mongers allege some sort of plot by the institution to fool the world, a nonsensical assertion.
"The IPCC is a totally transparent organization," Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the body, explained to me in an interview a few years ago. "It has experts drawn from every corner of the globe. Whatever we do is available for scrutiny at every stage. The drafts that we write are peer-reviewed and reviewed by governments. Thousands of people are part of what some of these people say is a conspiracy? My God! This is a conspiracy on a scale that's absolutely astounding!"
The panel has had to be "doubly careful" this time (as Pachauri told the BBC) because certain errors in the 2007 report were seized upon by critics to assert that it was complete hogwash.
Another recent challenge to the panel's conclusions is that the warming trend has shown a lull in the past fifteen years.
"People always pick 1998 but [that was] a very special year, because a strong El Niño made it unusually hot, and since then there have been some medium-sized volcanic eruptions that have cooled the climate," Professor Thomas Stocker, another co-chair of a working group of the organization, told the BBC quite convincingly.
But some minds are so firmly made up that no amount of science will convince them. These include those of the leaders of a major political party in the United States.
"Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, doesn't believe that humans are responsible for rising global temperatures," Hyacinth Mascarenhas has written at policymic.com. "Shockingly, more than 55 percent of Congressional Republicans agree with Stewart."
Senate Republicans are at least as bad. Of the batch that was elected in 2010, only Illinois Senator Mark Kirk fully accepts that global warming is happening. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has actually invoked a higher power to refute global warming, saying on a radio show last year, "God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."
As a result of this such beliefs, one of the key demands by the Republican Congressional leadership in the ongoing budget fight is that the Obama Administration give up its modest measures to control domestic greenhouse gas emissions, while another is that it give the green light to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a project that could possibly ruin the planet on the global warming front if it goes through.
This sort of willful ignorance by a major portion of the political class in this country could spell doom for us all. Fortunately, they don't have total power right now, and there's a great movement at the grassroots to force Washington and other governments to respond adequately to these urgent warnings.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of "Islam" Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today (Praeger).