Sunday, September 22, 2013

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

The Final Draft of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is due out at the end of this month. It is under active consideration this week. In anticipation of this event, I want to review the relevance of this group and its work.

Under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international scientific body for the assessment of climate change. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.

Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. IPCC aims to reflect a range of views and expertise. The Secretariat coordinates all the IPCC work and liaises with Governments. It is supported by WMO and UNEP and hosted at WMO headquarters in Geneva.

Established in 1988, the IPCC has produced four previous Assessment Reports (1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007). The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will provide a clear view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It will comprise three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR). It is the first of these WG reports that is due out at the end of this week.

What will we learn?

We don't know yet, really. The report has not yet be published. Not surprisingly, however, there have been leaks, some of them controversial. It has been published, for example, that the report will show that "carbon dioxide could have a smaller impact on global temperatures than scientists predicted in 2007, opening the possibility greenhouse gas emissions do not have to be radically cut." At the same time it has also been reported that the effects of global warming are more severe than previously thought. Writing the report is an iterative process. How about if we wait and see what it says at the end of the week?

Nonetheless, no one is predicting that AR5 will substantially reverse previous Assessment Reports in the consensus that global warming is caused primarily by human emissions of greenhouse gasses. Pertinent questions will of course include the relative degrees of various forcings, revised rates of change, and likely consequences of climate change. Some of these findings may be somewhat speculative as well, but this report, the most up to date information available, is not expected to call into question the reality of man-made global warming and climate change. If it does, I will be among the first to post such a statement here.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Paradox of Peace

Today, as every day, I will pray for peace, but today I will also participate in the global prayer vigil for peace called for by Pope Francis six days ago. The invitation is to everyone, "including our non-Catholic Christian brothers, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."

"We will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God's great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace."

The vigil in St. Peter's Square from 7 pm to 11 pm today (September 7) will include a recital of the rosary, eucharistic adoration, Scripture readings, a papal blessing and remarks by Pope Francis. Hundreds of thousands of others of all faiths and in hundreds of locations around the world are expected to join the vigil in their own ways. My own participation will be to meditate at the Arkansas House of Prayer (AHOP) with a few friends at noon CDT (7 pm in Rome). All are welcome. In contrast to the event in St. Peter's Square, our practice at the AHOP is to observe silence, quiet the mind, and seek the face of the Divine within.

Which brings me to the paradox of peace. Peace begins within the human heart, within my heart. Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." This means that world peace begins with me. So why not meditate and pray in my own closet? I certainly could and many will do just that from wherever they are today. But when I sit in silence in the meditation room with two or twenty others, my own spirit becomes more aware of the Divine center within those around me, and together we unify our spirits with all those gathered around the world. We sense more deeply that we are not separate egos. We are one with everyone and we cry out with all those who suffer the ravages of violence wherever they are.

The AHOP event today is a prelude to another on September 21, the International Day of Peace, at 7:00 pm (Midnight GMT), when all who can are invited to join us at the AHOP for BeThePeace Little Rock. Hundreds of millions are expected to meditate simultaneously in one of the largest globally-synchronized meditation and prayer events in history. Peace begins with me; yet I cannot truly be at peace until the human family lives in peace.

And so I have been accused of being an idealist. Guilty, but I am not naïve. Conflict and violence will not end this month. Nonetheless, I find great hope in the combined efforts of over eighty organizations in more than four hundred cities around the world in asking twenty percent of the world's population to think and pray about peace on that day, as I do so in stillness. That is the paradox.