The latest leaked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report reiterates three points that we already know and warns us of dire consequences if we fail to act. Climate change is here, it is caused by humans and it has a number of dangerous impacts. It is noted that extreme weather like heat waves, drought, flooding and rising seas are already serious problems today.
The document specifically states that as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise we can expect the situation to worsen. This means more “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
The report spells out the high level of risk associated with failing to significantly reduce emissions. These risks include sea-level rise causing widespread coastal flooding (effecting 70 percent of the world’s coastlines by the end of the century), more severe and enduring heat waves and droughts, torrential downpours, diminished agricultural yields resulting in widespread food shortages, species extinction and pest outbreaks. Ocean acidification is another major concern that could have serious implications for the entire interrelated web of marine life.
These climate impacts will have major economic and social consequences described in the report as “catastrophic,” this includes massive material costs, violent conflicts, environmental refugees and significant increases in global poverty.
The 127 page climate draft of the Synthesis Report (SYN) was leaked at the end of August, it essentially summarizes the findings in the three preceding IPCC reports:
WGI: The Physical Science Basis – September 2013
WG II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – March 2014
WG III: Mitigation of Climate Change – April 2014
We have already documented a temperature increase of .85 Celsius since 1880. This is the fastest temperature rise since well before the dawn of human civilization more than 10,000 years ago. It is expected to get much hotter as we go forward.
The report sets the stage for climate talks scheduled for LIma, Peru this coming December and the all important global climate agreement hoped for at the meeting in Paris planned for the end of 2015. In 2009 countries committed themselves to finding solutions that would keep global temperature increases below the internationally agreed upon 2 C (3.6 F) upper threshold limit. Without major reductions in carbon emissions we are on track to substantially exceed this limit. Conservatives estimates suggest that we will see a temperature increases of 3.7 C by the end of the century, which is almost twice the prescribed upper threshold limit.
The leaked report clearly indicates that we are not doing nearly enough to stave off catastrophe, even if we get serious about climate action it will be very difficult to stay within the prescribed upper threshold limits. Perhaps the most sobering fact is that even if we act now, there’s a real risk of “abrupt and irreversible” changes.
The Synthesis Report (SYR) is expected to be finalized and released for review at a Copenhagen meeting scheduled for October.
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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