Humans cause climate change. Scientists agree we do. This is not news. The fact that they agree was itself first scientifically established back in 2004, when a survey of 928 published papers (pdf) on climate science found not a single one that disputed the consensus. A more recent survey of over 12,000 papers found 97% support among those that took a position.
Yet this week many of the headlines about the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—itself just a survey of the scientific literature—were about its finding that scientists are now even more certain that mankind causes global warming.
It’s as if an ever-so-slightly less equivocal scientific consensus might somehow sway the deniers or tip the balance for policymakers. But given past experience, it clearly won’t. Nor will the IPCC’s warnings that temperatures will likely increase, seas rise, and ice-sheets melt even faster than previously thought. Which raises the question: What is the IPCC for, other than to hammer home what’s already to known to those who already know it?
Perhaps, then, the IPCC should broaden its mission: to investigate and publicize the secondary consequences of climate change. This week, for instance, Quartz reported on the plague of Asian hornets that have killed 28 people in China this summer, and are proliferating due to rising winter temperatures. They’re now spreading rapidly in Europe too, where not only people are vulnerable, but also the honeybees on which so much agriculture depends.
Direct proof of such impacts of climate change is often hard to establish. But science exists to solve hard problems. To skeptics and politicians, slowly rising seas and gradually retreating glaciers are easy to ignore. Giant killer hornets: not so easy.—Gideon Lichfield
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
As if the IPCC report wasn’t scary enough. A sizeable chunk of global carbon emissions comes from cow farts; China is building 40 synthetic natural gas plants that will reduce coal pollution but produce staggering amounts of CO2; and the number of killer thunderstorms could jump 40% by 2070. And don’t forget those killer hornets.
The US had better watch out for Jinro soju. This South Korean rice wine is the world’s best-selling brand of liquor, writes Gwynn Guilford, and it’s low-alcohol enough that US restaurants can serve it without a liquor license.
Amazon is not, in fact, killing independent bookstores. Membership of the American Booksellers Association has been rising steadily since 2009, and the small stores have even learned a thing or two from Amazon, says Leo Mirani.
How to map wealth in Africa using mobile-phone minutes. Terrible government data? Rampant tax evasion? No problem! Nothing reveals how much money people have like how much they spend at a time on mobile minutes, writes Ritchie King.
Your own Quartz headlines at the click of a button. We celebrated our one-year anniversary on Sept. 24 by creating this automated headline generator that remixes all of our past headlines. Try it. It’s weirdly addictive.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
Raghuram Rajan’s magic balancing act. Mark Bergen’s in-depth profile in Caravan of the former IMF chief economist now running India’s central bank looks at Rajan’s attempts to wield a “magic wand” over the Indian economy while simultaneously pretending not to have one.
Can the United Nations stay relevant? The Security Council’s deadlock over Syria symbolizes how marginalized the UN has become. Richard Gowan in Aeon asks whether it can summon the moral authority to restore its political power, and doesn’t seem very optimistic.
What the Zapruder film really tells us. At the Smithsonian, film-maker Errol Morris deconstructs the 26-second movie of the Kennedy assassination and the once-secret frame 313—a single image that (like the “Falling Man” picture we mentioned two weekends ago) appears to show everything and ends up telling us nothing.
The collapse of the Greek social contract. Sick of hearing about the Greek debt crisis? Arnon Grunberg’s conversations with five residents of Thessaloniki in The Believer will give you a feeling for what it actually means, with not an interest rate or a long-term refinancing operation in sight.
A new way to beat the market. Finding “alpha,” a return on investment higher than the mean stock-market performance (“beta”), is hard, and often risky. So most investors stick to index funds, which only deliver beta. Rob Davies in Prospect explains “smart beta”—index funds that use unusual measures to deliver better returns.
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