Mandy Gunasekara

The international climate conference held in Egypt just wrapped. Formally called the Conference of the Parties, this is the 27th time international leaders have gathered to discuss climate change and plot their plans of action. In a now well-formed order of events, the conference started with a prelude of fear-based, scientifically suspect “reports;” anxiety-driven activists of a young, impressionable age; and finally, a call to action by heads of state with a promise to do better next time.

After 27 years, it’s worth measuring the impact these conferences have had on their stated goals, the people that participate, and, of course, the climate. In sum, they are failing on all accounts.

First, let’s consider what these meetings have done for climate science: The technical underbelly of the climate conference is a panel of experts referred to as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Every few years, the IPCC publishes its main body of work—the Assessment Report (AR). The IPCC has published six to date and, giving credit where credit is due, in the most recent AR the science itself is largely credible and measured.

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