SYNTHESIS REPORT OF IPCC’S FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT November 6, 2014Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, CLIMATE CHANGE.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an interesting institution within which climate scientists from around the globe work together. What is possible for science, remains impossible for politics. I notice that the report is dedicated to the memory of Stephen H. Schneider 1945 – 2010.
John Light at Grist summarizes the 10 things we should know – so much for the IPCC synthesis:
1. We humans really, truly are responsible for climate change, and ignoring that fact doesn’t make it less true. “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history,” the report states. The atmospheric concentration of key greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — is “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” the report warns, and our fossil-fuel driven economies and ever-increasing population are to blame.
2. Climate change is already happening. Each of the past three decades has been warmer than the last, and warmer than any decade since we started keeping records. Sea levels are rising. Arctic ice cover is shrinking. Crop yields are changing — more often than not, getting smaller. It has been getting wetter, and storms and heat waves are getting more intense.
Refer graphs: “Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomaly” and Globally averaged Sea Level Change:
3. … and it is going to get far worse: “Heat waves will occur more often and last longer … extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise,” the report states. If we stick to our current path, we could see 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius of warming — or even more — by the end of the century.
Refer to graphs showing projected changes in sea-level rise and surface temperature given different emissions scenarios:
graph: “Global mean sea level rise”IPCC
4. Much of recent warming has been in the ocean. About 90 percent of the energy that has gone into the climate system since 1971 went into the ocean. That means a warmer, expanding ocean, which fuels stronger storms. It also means rising sea levels and eroding coastlines.
5. The ocean is also becoming more acidic. By taking in so much of the carbon dioxide that humans have been spitting out since the industrial revolution, the ocean has become 26 percent more acidic and its pH level is falling. Scientists think this could have widespread and severe effects on marine life — increasingly, ocean acidification is being referred to as the “other CO2 problem.”
6. Climate change will hit developing nations particularly hard, but we are all vulnerable. Climate change will make food systems more volatile, exacerbate health problems, displace people, weaken countries’ infrastructures, and fuel conflict. It will touch every area of life. Economic growth will slow as temperatures warm, new poverty traps will be created, and we’ll find that poverty cannot be eliminated without first tackling climate change.
7. Plants and animals are even more vulnerable than we are. As climates shift, entire ecosystems will be forced to move, colliding with one another. Many plants and small animals won’t be able to move quickly enough to keep up, if global warming marches forward unabated, and will go extinct.
8. We must switch mostly to renewables by 2050, and phase out fossil fuels by 2100. To avoid the most damaging and potentially irreversible impacts of climate change (e.g., from the report: “substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation”), we’ll need to make sure our greenhouse gas emissions are cut severely by the middle of this century. We should aim for “near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived GHGs by the end of the century.”
REfer to graph showing how much our emissions could go up or down under different emissions scenarios:
9. We already have the answers we need to tackle climate change. We have the necessary technologies available, and economic growth will not be strongly affected if we take action, the report argues. As the cliché goes, all it takes is the will to act. But we must act in unison, the report states: “Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently. Cooperative responses, including international cooperation, are therefore required to effectively mitigate GHG emissions and address other climate change issues.”
10. This dire report is decidedly conservative. The effects of climate change could be much worse than what this report presents. As Chris Mooney explains, many scientific experts say the panel errs on the side of caution. He writes:
… a new study just out in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society… charge[s] that the IPCC is focused on avoiding what are called “type 1″ errors — claiming something is happening when it really is not (a “false positive”) — rather than on avoiding “type 2″ errors — not claiming something is happening when it really is (a “false negative”).
So the actual effects of climate change could be even more severe, and even stranger, than what the IPCC describes.
And the Australian Government in the spirit of “willful ignorance”, or unconscionable negligence, finds itself unable to understand to respond appropriately. Still what is the surprise when the Prime Minister declares “that coal is the foundation for prosperity, now and in the immediate future”. Admittedly that was true in the Nineteenth Century following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the development of the steam engine. One should acknowledge it was the petrol engine that began to make a difference to air warfare in the First World War and more so in the Second. What he means is that coal will continue to be used for electricity generation. In doing so he is denying the potential of non-polluting forms of renewable energy production. It seems more unreality than myopia.
Simon Buckle, Policy Director, The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, writes:
An effective response requires action across all major countries, not just the developed world. The international community now needs to build on – and go further than – the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which was a paradigm shift that stimulated emissions-reduction pledges to 2020 from a wide range of countries – including China and India.
National emissions-reduction contributions beyond 2020 are due to be made in early 2015. The major developed economies will need to make serious commitments on finance as well as emissions; the recent EU summit decision on its 2030 target should help. China now emits more CO2 per capita than the EU, while India’s per capita emissions are still less than 40% of the world average – what works for one won’t be necessarily be appropriate for the other, yet action by both is critical.
The 2015 Paris summit is therefore an important moment, but it will not be able – and is not intended – to provide the final answer. The summit will make more progress if it focuses on near-term operational targets, such as achieving a peak in global emissions by a certain date rather than triggering a damaging row over how the small budget of future cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with a 2°C target should be shared among nations.
Aiming to pass “peak emissions” by a certain point would provide a coherent framework for assessing individual national contributions and negotiating the conditions under which they could be improved. It could also allow continued growth of emissions in the poorer developing countries for some time to come, which is essential.
The Abbott Government does not simply take the small blinkered view, in this and other matters, and perhaps framed by the electoral cycle (although that does not appear to be an determinate of its budget policy) but has an ideological disposition to deny the reality of climate change and its ramifications. Perhaps, as some are suggesting, the theory of systematic Climate Change is a conspiracy of climate scientists.
Roger Jones, from Victoria University in Melbourne concludes, after suggesting deficiencies in the Report’s cost/benefit analysis concludes:
. . . acting on climate is ultimately an ethical, not an economic, consideration. Insufficient policy action is a declaration of self-interest, condemning our children, grandchildren and the planetary system that supports them, to a dystopian future. That’s what the report should say.
As the 90% and more victims of Typhoon Haiyan (or Delores) that took place one year ago are still living in tents and vulnerable to the next super storm remind us, the poorest people on the planet will be disportionately impacted. Denial of climate Change continues, and now reinforced by the Republican majority in the US Senate, is the continuing expression of both Western cruelty and the determination to burn the planet. It is a death culture of violence and perpetual war. And it is the headspace of the Abbott Government.
Now the climate could not spin out of control, could it?