THE “ASSESSMENT REPORTS” from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used to assess scientific extrapolations, the output of models and similar investigations into likely and frightening futures. The latest, sixth, assessment report, which comes eight years after the previous one, reflects how much has happened of late. It reads, for the first time, like something written from within the thick of things, an assessment of an ever more troubling present.
The release of the first tranche of this new report, the bit that dealt with the state of the physical science of the climate system and climate change, came in August. The second tranche (of three, with a synthesis due later) arrived on February 28th. It reports on the impacts of that climate change, and on adaptation and vulnerability to it. Like the first, this second tranche is the work of hundreds of authors who have ploughed through vast piles of peer-reviewed papers and other material, with their work then scrutinised by both peers and governments. Researchers and government officials then gathered to agree on phrasing that summarises those findings and advice.