Time is running out if the world wants to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change, according to the most definitive report to date by the UN body charged with formulating expert advice for governments around the globe.
In what amounts to a “final warning” about the dangers of not doing enough to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that it is technically and economically possible to still keep within the target of no more than a 2C increase in global average temperatures.
However, the panel warns in its Synthesis Report published yesterday that fossil fuels will have to be significantly scaled back in the coming decades, and eliminated entirely by 2100, in order to keep within what is widely considered to be the “safe” limit for global warming.
“We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within the 2C of warming closes,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, who launched the report in Copenhagen. “To keep a good chance of staying below the 2C, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 per cent globally between 2010 and 2050, and falling to zero or below by 2100,” Dr Pachauri said.
“We have the opportunity, and the choice is in our hands,” he added, referring to the need for a global climate deal to limit fossil fuel emissions in time for an international climate meeting of governmental policymakers next December in Paris.
The Synthesis Report, which is seen as the final “capstone” of the previous three IPCC reports, restates the scientific, economic and social case for a new climate deal to turn around the continuing increase in fossil fuel emissions over the past decades – carbon dioxide emissions alone last year reached a record 36 billion tons.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
The report states that the human influence on the Earth’s climate is clear, that human emissions of greenhouses gases are the highest in history, and that recent changes to the climate have already had an impact on human and natural systems.
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen,” the report says.
The IPCC warns governments that it is not enough to cut fossil fuel emissions, it will also be necessary to adapt to climate change. But the longer they take to come to a binding deal on curbing emissions through mitigation, the greater the eventual costs of adaptation, the IPCC said.
“We need both adaptation and mitigation. One or another is not the solution to these problems,” Dr Pachauri said. “We have the means to limit climate change. The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change.”
Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said that the IPCC has now made it clear that climate change is happening and that it poses widespread and serious risks.
“We can still avoid the most serious impacts. We need to transform the way we power our lives. This will be very challenging, but the challenges for humanity if we do not are likely to be far greater,” Sir Mark said. “The longer global emissions are allowed to continue to increase year on year the more difficult, and expensive, the transition to a low carbon future will become.”
IPCC report - the key findings
* Many of the observed changes in climate are unprecedented, over either recent decades or millennia.
* The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, snow and ice has diminished and sea levels have risen.
* Human emissions of greenhouse cases are the highest in history and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the highest in at least 800,000 years.
* The acidity of the oceans has increased by 26 per cent since the beginning of the industrial era due to increases in carbon dioxide.
* It is “extremely likely” that human emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other sources are the dominant causes of the observed warming.Reuse content