The New York Times offers a tiny preview of the massive global warming report that is due out Feb. 2.

Reporter Andrew C. Revkin gives a sweeping perspective about the report’s significance.

The shift in language in the current draft, while subtle, is substantive. If it remains in the final version, scheduled for release in Paris on Feb. 2, it will largely complete a quest that lasted decades to determine if humans are nudging the earth’s thermostat in potentially momentous ways.

Drafts of the report project a most likely warming of 4 to 8 degrees if the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises to twice the 280 parts per million that it averaged for many centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

The carbon dioxide concentration is now roughly 380 parts per million, and many climate experts say it will be extremely difficult to avoid hitting levels of 450 or 550 parts per million, or higher, later this century, given growth in populations and fuel use and the lack of nonpolluting alternatives that can be exploited at a sufficient scale to replace fossil fuels.

We have written recently about the three scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, who have participated in the report’s drafting. Other Scripps scientists have been involved in previous releases of the occasional reports.

ROB DAVIS

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