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Item #d95oct128

The synthesis report of the 1995 scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which summarizes the contributions of the three IPCC working groups, is still in draft form, but as of August 10 (1995) it has being raising a stir in the press. On that day, the The New York Times published an article by William K. Stevens titled "Experts Confirm Human Role in Global Warming" (pp. 1, 8). Stevens based the article on a draft of the synthesis report he found posted on the Internet, labeled "do not cite/distribute." The part of the report emphasized in that article is that the global warming observed in this century "is unlikely to be entirely due to natural causes," a statement described by Stevens and in a number of other publications as a significant change in the scientific consensus on climate change. This change is attributed mainly to increased confidence in climate model predictions, particularly the representation of the cooling effect of atmospheric particles, which tends to offset warming by greenhouse gases in some regions.

Conclusions may be modified in the final version, which will not be officially accepted until the end of this year. According to Nature (p. 189, Sep. 21, 1995), IPCC officials are embarrassed that the draft was "leaked" through the Internet, where it was placed to facilitate the review process. The episode is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding an earlier IPCC report, its summary, and an IPCC press release (see Global Climate Change Digest News, Oct. 1994).

The entire text of the draft summary (pp. 746-748) accompanies an article (p. 708) in Intl. Environ. Rptr., Sep. 20, 1995; it is also available on the Internet at The U.S. State Department announced the availability of the draft synthesis report for public comment in an Aug. 22 Federal Register notice. Contact Michael MacCracken (202 651 8250) or Daniel Reifsnyder (202 647 4609).

The first three of the following articles discuss other conclusions of the draft assessment concerning climate impacts and mitigation. Most, but not all of the scientists quoted in the articles below support the general conclusion of the draft summary. The new bi-weekly World Climate Rep. (Vol. 1, No. 2), funded by the Western Fuels Association, comments that the conclusion described in the New York Times article is not news, and that the U.N. is "preparing an incredulous public for the pronouncement, somewhere in the next decade, that global warming really wasn't much of a problem after all."

"Heading for Apocalypse?" M.D. Lemonick, Time, pp. 54-55, Oct. 2, 1995.

"IPCC Draft Summary Makes Headlines," Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Sep. 22, 1995.

"Scientists Say Earth's Warming Could Set off Wide Disruptions," W.K. Stevens, The New York Times, pp. A1, A8, Sep. 18, 1995.

Shorter pieces appear in Science, p. 1667, Sep. 22, 1995, and Chem. Eng. News, pp. 7-8, Sep. 18.

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