The global climate change watchdog, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is using conservative language in reporting the burgeoning climate crisis, according to a new international report.
According to the report, published in BioScience, language used by the IPCC in its reporting is underselling the severity of the climate crisis.
“We found that the main message from the reports — that our society is in climate emergency — is lost by overstatement of uncertainty and gets confused among the gigabytes of information,” says lead author Dr Salvador Herrando-Pérez, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.
“The IPCC supports the overwhelming scientific consensus about human impact on climate change, so we would expect the reports’ vocabulary to be dominated by greater certainty on the state of climate science — but this is not the case.”
“The accumulation of uncertainty across all elements of the climate-change complexity means that the IPCC tends to be conservative,” says co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology at Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering.
“The certainty is in reality much higher than even the IPCC implies, and the threats are much worse.”
Along with experts from the University of Bristol and Spanish National Research Council, the experts say the IPCC reports should incorporate a clear connection between the certainty of thousands of scientific findings and the certainty that humans are vastly altering the Earth’s climate.
The report concludes that the IPCC should form a new working group of communication specialists to better communicate the severity of the climate crisis.
“Our evolutionary history tells us Earth will ultimately survive more aridity, more hurricanes, more floods, more sea-level rise, more extinctions and degraded ecosystems, but our society as we know it today might not unless we clearly articulate the magnitude of the threat it poses,” says Dr Herrando-Pérez.