The rational for action on climate change, and the serious consequences of inadequate action, were laid out quite unequivocally on Sunday November 2 in Copenhagen, Denmark. In a short-ish Synthesis Report (40 pages including Figures) for policy makers and a longer one if you care for more of the details, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have brought together the findings of the previous three IPCC Working Group reports released over the past year or so plus a couple of Special Reports that came out in 2011.
The synthesis report forms the last stage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), providing policymakers with a roadmap to help them find their way to COP 21 in Paris, where it is hoped they can achieve a global agreement for action on climate change.
Confidence in the data has grown
The compilation comes from the work of over 800 scientists around the world, whose confidence in their data has steadily grown. The report is now laced with a good many “very high” qualitative ratings and a smattering of “virtually certain” quantified likelihoods of rising global temperature and sea levels and increased ocean acidification occurring.
The IPCC starkly state (that) “if left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems”. The report also offers some hope in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change: “Implementing stringent mitigations activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future”.
According to the report, “Substantial cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next few decades can substantially reduce risks of climate change by limiting warming in the second half of the 21st century and beyond.” Some of those GHG cuts can come from improved energy efficiency and using cleaner energy sources, for example, decarbonizing electricity generation by replacing coal with cleaner burning natural gas. and bringing along more renewable power sources. Other reductions can come from: reduced energy and water consumption; sustainable agriculture and forestry; and protection of ecosystems for carbon storage and other ecosystem services. Implementing such reductions, says the report “poses substantial technological, economic, social, and institutional challenges, which increase with delays in additional mitigation and if key technologies are not available.”
Science has spoken
During the launching of the report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said:
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message…Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”
This IPCC synthesis report gives us the evidence. It should be sufficient information for global leaders to make some sustainable choices on behalf of the world.