The United Nations Environmental Programme just released a major report in advance of the Climate Change Summit to take place in Copenhagen this December. The report is intended to “show how the science has been evolving” since the publication of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in the spring of 2007.
Although we suppose we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we are having a lot of difficulty bringing ourselves to think that the contents provide a fair representation of the recent state climate change science.
The title says “Climate Change 2009: Science Compendium” but the cover illustration screams “Political Propaganda!”
Here is the cover of the UNEP report:
What is this illustration supposed to be representing?
It shows the earth, slipping through an hourglass and coming out not as just a pile of sand, but as a desert, replete with sand dunes.
I guess the symbolism is supposed to be that time is running out on our ability to save the earth from this fate. Apparently climate change is going to turn the earth from predominantly a blue and green vibrant planet (in the top half of the hourglass) to a brown lifeless one (in the bottom of the hourglass).
Whoever dreamt up this symbolism demonstrates a remarkable failure to grasp even the most basic premise of the science and projections of climate change.
While we are not graphic artists, let us suggest a more apt concept.
By adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels to produce the energy that we all rely on to power our way of life and in doing so improve our general health and welfare, we are enhancing the earth’s greenhouse effect.
(Note to UNEP art department: when you think of the contents of a greenhouse, you don’t think of a desert.)
Our enhancement of the greenhouse effect is expected, on a global average, to lead to higher temperatures (like inside a greenhouse), higher humidity (like inside a greenhouse), more precipitation (like inside a greenhouse), longer growing seasons (like inside a greenhouse), and enhance the fertilization effect of airborne carbon dioxide (just like commercial greenhouses which pump CO2 inside them to increase plant growth and productivity). Taken together, this brings up images of lush tropical foliage, not a dry, lifeless, desert.
Our guess is, a lush green world this isn’t the image that they wanted to conjure up about climate change and UNEP’s art department couldn’t come up with a way to make this seem bad (hint: next time, check with Al Gore).
If the UNEP wanted to advertise right from the get go that its report was filled with nonsense, the selection of its cover illustration made that loud and clear.
Although we have thus far not been able to bring ourselves to look past the cover to see what lurks inside, others apparently have, and what they have reported back is that the contents are as scientifically soft as the cover.