IPCC Releases Final Report on Global Warming and Climate Change
In a word: “dire” – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The window of opportunity for doing something positive about it – closing. The time to start action on quickly reducing human causes releases of greenhouse gases – NOW!
From the Huffington Post (November 3, 2014):
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Climate change is happening, it’s almost entirely man’s fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the U.N.’s panel on climate science said Sunday.
The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s giant climate assessment offered no surprises, nor was it expected to since it combined the findings of three reports released in the past 13 months.
But it underlined the scope of the climate challenge in stark terms. Emissions, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, may need to drop to zero by the end of this century for the world to have a decent chance of keeping the temperature rise below a level that many consider dangerous.
The IPCC didn’t say exactly what such a world would look like but it would likely require a massive shift to renewable sources to power homes, cars and industries combined with new technologies to suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
The report warned that failure to reduce emissions could lock the world on a trajectory with “irreversible” impact on people and the environment. Some impacts already being observed included rising sea levels, a warmer and more acidic ocean, melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice and more frequent and intense heat waves.
The science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the report’s launch in Copenhagen.
Amid its grim projections, the report said the tools are there to set the world on a low-emissions path and break the addiction to burning oil, coal and gas which pollute the atmosphere with heat-trapping CO2, the chief greenhouse gas.
“All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said.
The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess global warming and its impacts. The report released Sunday caps its latest assessment, a mega-review of 30,000 climate change studies that establishes with 95-percent certainty that most of the warming seen since the 1950s is man-made. The IPCC’s best estimate is that just about all of it is man-made, but it can’t say that with the same degree of certainty.
Today only a small minority of scientists challenge the mainstream conclusion that climate change is linked to human activity.
Global Climate Change, a NASA website, says 97 percent of climate scientists agree that warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.
The American public isn’t as convinced. A year-old survey by Pew Research showed 67 percent of Americans believed global warming is occurring and 44 percent said the earth is warming mostly because of human activity. More recently, a New York Times poll said 42 percent of Republicans say global warming won’t have a serious impact, a view held by 12 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents.
Sleep-deprived delegates approved the final documents Saturday after a weeklong line-by-line review that underscored that the IPCC process is not just about science. The reports must be approved both by scientists and governments, which means political issues from U.N. climate negotiations, which are nearing a 2015 deadline for a global agreement, inevitably affect the outcome.
The rift between developed and developing countries in the U.N. talks opened up in Copenhagen over a passage on what levels of warming could be considered dangerous. After a protracted battle, the text was dropped from a key summary for policy-makers — to the disappointment of some scientists.
“If the governments are going to expect the IPCC to do their job,” said Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer, a lead author of the IPCC’s second report, they shouldn’t “get caught up in fights that have nothing to do with the IPCC.”
The omission meant the word “dangerous” disappeared from the summary altogether. It appeared only twice in a longer underlying report compared to seven times in a draft produced before the Copenhagen session. The less loaded word “risk” was mentioned 65 times in the final 40-page summary.
“Rising rates and magnitudes of warming and other changes in the climate system, accompanied by ocean acidification, increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible detrimental impacts,” the report said.
World governments in 2009 set a goal of keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) compared to before the industrial revolution. Temperatures have gone up about 0.8 C (1.4 F) since the 19th century.
Emissions have risen so fast in recent years that the world has used up two-thirds of its carbon budget, the maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted to have a likely chance of avoiding 2 degrees of warming, the IPCC report said.
“This report makes it clear that if you are serious about the 2-degree goal … there is nowhere to hide,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. “You can’t wait several decades to address this issue.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report demands “ambitious, decisive and immediate action.”
“Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids,” Kerry said in a statement.
The IPCC said the cost of actions such as shifting to solar and wind power and other renewable sources and improving energy efficiency would reduce economic growth only by 0.06 percent annually.
Pachauri said that should be measured against the implications of doing nothing, putting “all species that live on this planet” at peril.
The report is meant as a scientific roadmap for the U.N. climate negotiations, which continue next month in Lima, Peru. That’s the last major conference before a summit in Paris next year, where a global agreement on climate action is supposed to be adopted.
The biggest hurdle is deciding who should do what. Rich countries are calling on China and other major developing countries to set ambitious targets; developing countries saying the rich have a historical responsibility to lead the fight against warming and to help poorer nations cope with its impacts. The IPCC avoided taking sides, saying the risks of climate change “are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”
AP: By KARL RITTER
Posted: 11/02/2014 7:35 am EST Updated: 11/03/2014 12:59 pm EST
IPCC Sounds Fresh Alarm as Fossil Fuel Interests Tighten Grip on Congress
The leading international network of climate scientists is urging a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, just as allies of coal, oil and natural gas industries in the United States appear poised to tighten their grip on Congress—where opposition to cleaner energy is already entrenched.
That outcome of Tuesday’s midterm election would spell trouble for advocates of a strong international climate accord. Treaty negotiations are supposed to pick up in the next few months and culminate in Paris just over a year from now.
This weekend, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a synthesis report that sums up its years-long review of the climate crisis and what to do about it. The report called for the near-complete elimination of fossil fuel-burning by the end of the century. This, it said, is what is needed to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the most severe risks of man-made changes to the world’s climate.
Nothing could be further from the agenda of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the coal-state Republican who on the eve of the election appears to have significantly better than even odds of becoming the next majority leader. (Though, as the IPCC might put it, until the last votes are tallied any forecast of which party will prevail deserves only “medium confidence.”)
Even if the Republicans don’t gain a majority in the Senate on Nov. 4, they are likely to gain strength in that chamber as well as in the House—an election outcome that would undermine President Obama’s entire climate agenda, not just his influence in the Paris talks.
From the Keystone XL pipeline decision and so-called “war on coal,” to a carbon tax and the very foundations of climate science, Congressional Republicans have opposed Obama on anything having to do with global warming from his first days in office.
Just last year, on the day the IPCC released one of three exhaustive treatments that formed the basis of this week’s synthesis report, McConnell co-sponsored an amendment to block the EPA from regulating fossil fuels in electric power plants, the largest single source of carbon emissions in this country.
His co-sponsor, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, offered another amendment at the same time. It would have prohibited the administration from participating in international climate negotiations “unless the U.S. offers an addendum to the latest IPCC report stating that anthropogenic climate change is a scientifically unproven theory.” Inhofe, who reportedly aspires to be chairman of the environment committee in a Republican Senate, calls the whole IPCC enterprisea “conspiracy” and “a hoax.”
Their ascent would alarm participants in the climate talks who agree with IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, that the climate crisis could be solved if action is quick and decisive. “All we need,” Pachauri said as he released the new synthesis report, “is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
Emissions must fall by 40 to 70 percent between 2010 and 2050, and then to zero by 2100, he explained at a news conference.
Those are fighting words to anyone committed to defending the coal industry in Kentucky, the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma, or campaigning in any fossil fuel stronghold—from the Marcellus shale to the Bakken light oil play. And it helps explain why the politics of carbon are a feature of so many swing elections in states like West Virginia, Colorado, Louisiana and Alaska.
The contrast between this increasingly partisan American political divide and the increasingly solid international scientific consensus could hardly be starker.
“The scientists have done their jobs and then some,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has tracked the negotiations for decades. “Politicians can either dramatically reduce emissions or they can spend the rest of their careers running from climate disaster to climate disaster.”
Other environmental advocates, too, issued statements emphasizing that the synthesis report—including its summary for policymakers, expressly designed to guide them toward early action —was as significant politically as it was scientifically.
“The report is alarming and should be a wake-up call to government leaders,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a group that encourages businesses to show leadership on climate issues. Her statement called on them to “ramp up the pressure…especially in Washington.”
“The critical missing link is the oil and gas industry, which is doing its best to thwart concrete action,” she said.
The Sierra Club’s Michael Brune aimed a jibe at the Koch brothers and their favored candidates, saying that “we don’t have any more time to coddle fossil fuel billionaires or politicians who will eschew responsibility at every corner.”
Big environmental groups have spent heavily in this campaign, too—$85 million on state and federal races, according to Daniel Weiss of the League of Conservation Voters, including $40 million on just six key Senate races. And in the closing days, they were knocking on millions of doors to bring out a green vote.
The organizations released results from a Hart Research Associates poll taken in late October in swing states suggesting that the climate issue could break in their favor.
“The survey suggests that Republican candidates are losing ground as a result of their climate science denial and opposition to climate pollution reductions,” Hart reported. “This is true among independent swing voters, and particularly among women and younger voters.”
But only about 40 percent of those surveyed said they had heard much of candidates’ views on climate. A majority had heard about energy issues, but far more about abortion, jobs and Obamacare.