Summary and Info
The "Foreword" opening salvo doesn't leave any doubts: "Climate change is now a scientifically established fact", quickly followed by the assertion that "...today, the debate is over and climate skepticism is an increasingly fringe activity". And then, I can not resist adding, the scientific method is death, no longer necessary, and from now on, science will progress by consensus.
The HDR 2007 is a bold and highly politicized report that seems a lot like a frontal attack to the moderates (such as Bjørn Lomberg's Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming), who are defending the position that improving third world health and poverty is of higher priority than diverting resources to mitigate the alleged climate change crisis, and by the way, a more cost effective proposition according to Lomberg's book.
The UN posture on Global Warming/Climate Change takes a new turn and a difficult to understand cause and effect relationship: "climate change is already starting to affect some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world", and thus, it is already undermining the international community's efforts to reduce extreme poverty, and in the long-run, it is a massive threat to human development. In the Climate Change issue constituencies with a weak political voice are now two: the world's poor and future generations.
The assertions presented in the "Overview" to justify immediate action are very strong, let's just mention two: (i) failure to take action by the political leadership during the 20th century lead to two world wars, with millions of deaths. "Dangerous climate change is the avoidable catastrophe of the 21st Century and beyond"; (ii) it would be a political failure to allow this tragedy to evolve..."It would represent a systematic violation of the human rights of the world's poor and future generations and a step back from universal values". No comments!
Sorry for the citations, but it just to give you a taste of the strong statements made by the UN in this report, and there is much more. That's why I called it a manifesto. The radical environmentalists are going to love it, a real preach to the choir, but the skeptics too are going to like it, since the HRD 2007 is so biased in defending climate change mitigation mixed with poverty alleviation that critics will find plenty of ammunition to fight back. Exaggeration on the debate only makes them more vulnerable. This is really a shame, because the more radical the arguments become, the positions get more dogmatic, and we end up the farther from the truth, and it seems, light years from real objective science. As Gregory Benford said "Passion (in any argument) is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available".
Now commenting on the less controversial contents, beyond the routinely annual reporting of the Human Development Index (which is always of interest by itself), the HDR 2007 presents very interesting graphs and figures showing carbon footprints by selected countries, how footprints at OECD levels would require more than one planet, the 30 worst offenders and how they do in sequestering carbon emissions from forests, and much more. This information is really very interesting and presented in a very clever way, highly recommended, regardless of your position on the man-made global warming controversy. That's why the HRD 2007 deserves two stars instead of one. The report is also available in the web in PDF format.
The usual disclaimer: I strongly believe we have a moral obligation to take good care of our Pale Blue Dot, for us and to preserve our planet environment and natural resources for future generations. Instead of pointless smear attacks by both sides of the GW issue, that lobbying effort should be directed at developed countries to focus on spending more resources on R&D to develop affordable clean fuels and technologies. There are plenty of political and economical reasons for doing that, with no need of fear and catastrophic prophesies. As examples of the right approach to the real and present problem, read Jay Inslee's Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, or Jeffrey Goettemoeller's Sustainable Ethanol: Biofuels, Biorefineries, Cellulosic Biomass, Flex-fuel Vehicles, and Sustainable Farming for Energy Independence. How come Brazil has had for several years a full functioning market of biofuels (ethanol from sugar cane) and commercially feasible flex vehicles (running on any combination of gasoline and ethanol), but developed countries insist on using fossil fuels?
My other concern is about keeping science apolitical and faithful to its mission, open to questioning, so it better help us increase our knowledge as close to the truth as possible. As Karl Popper wisely said: "If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories".
I usually try to keep a balanced position, but this report went really sky high. For a book dealing with the real explanation about what is really undermining the international community's efforts to reduce extreme poverty, read Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. For a book dealing with real science for understanding why the GW predictions are nothing but very expensive pessimistic guesses, read David Orrell's The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction (Apollo's Arrow in the Canadian edition). If interested in how real science works and how consensus is irrelevant for the scientific method, read the good old The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn.