Ten years left to avert catastrophe

A A A

For the past six years, more than 2,000 scientists from around the world have been writing the most definitive and up-to-date assessment of climate change. It is the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since it was set up by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1988.

The first volume of this assessment - called Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis - will be published today at a meeting in Paris. It will be followed later in the year by two more volumes concerned with what we can expect this century in terms of climate change effects, and what we can do to minimise the impact that those effects will have on our way of life.

It is clear from the draft version of the IPCC's fourth assessment report on the science of climate change there is little doubt that global warming is a reality, and increases in the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide over the past 250 years are largely responsible.

There are still many uncertainties surrounding the issue of climate change, but these uncertainties should not be allowed to cloud the facts. The first is that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increases in average global temperatures are higher than at any time over the past 650,000 years - and we know one can exacerbate the other.

It is also virtually certain that the burning of fossil fuels such as coal is responsible for the observed rise in carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas in terms of global warming.

The IPCC has therefore concluded that the global warming we have observed in recent decades is the likely result of human activity.

The IPCC will point out that 11 of the 12 warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 1995. It expects global temperatures to rise by a further 3C by 2100.

Today's report is also expected to warn that sea levels will continue to rise this century, and the century after that, whatever we do to curb carbon dioxide levels. This is because of the inherent inertia of the climate system - the oceans contain about 1,000 times more heat than the atmosphere and so they respond more slowly to changes in global temperature.

If we want to avoid catastrophic increases in sea levels we must attempt to limit the melting of the giant ice sheets off Greenland and west Antarctica.

If one or both of the ice sheets disintegrate, sea levels would rise disastrously to inundate most of the major cities of the world as well as low-lying and densely populated countries such as Bangladesh.

Many scientists believe that we have about 10 years left to enact policies that will curb dangerous climate change.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US