Synthesis report cites mass die-offs of forests, the melting of land ice, rapid rise in sea levels and crop destruction to give ‘clear’ and ‘unequivocal’ warning
The latest report of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that global warming is “unequivocal”, and that the role of humans in causing it is “clear”. The report sent out a clear and sharp message that climate change is happening now. The newly released synthesis report neatly weaves together highlights from the three IPCC reports since last year that have dealt with science, impacts and mitigation respectively. At the release of the report, IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri stated: “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, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
On warming and emissions cuts
Another core finding of the report is that climate change poses serious risks to basic human progress, in areas such as alleviating poverty.
Summary for policymakers
Past reports have always tried to err on the side of understatement. Potentially contentious points usually are stripped out from the “Summary for Policymakers”. A box of text that considered what levels of warming can be considered dangerous was dropped from the “Summary for Policymakers” to avoid usage of strong words like “dangerous”, while a less contentious word "risk" was mentioned 65 times in the final 40-page summary. To steer clear of the “equity” debate, IPCC simply states that the risks of climate change "are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development". Further, a research outlining problems with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and why it failed to achieve greater emissions reductions made the cut but was left out of the summary.The decision was made because acknowledgement of the failure of Kyoto Protocol in the summary would have been considered a blow to policymakers and may have had a negative impact on the climate negotiations.
If the litany sounds familiar from the 2007 IPCC report it's because largely it is that. However, the evidence is much more precise. The anthropogenic influence is "extremely likely", the report says, the dominant cause being the burning of fossil fuels. This is stronger language than the previous report, released in 2007, which simply concluded that it was "very likely". The one-word change stems from a 5 per cent increase in scientific certainty, which is now at 95 percent.
Experts have warned of the ever shrinking window of opportunity to limit temperature increases. Beyond 2°C of warming, the costs and risks posed by climate change are too high and it's unlikely we could deal with the consequences, nations have collectively agreed. Not acting now puts a very heavy burden on future generations, the report says. The release of the report is timed to generate impact before the UN climate negotiations scheduled for later this month in Peru. As Ban Ki-moon stated in his remarks at the release, “Science has spoken”. It is now up to politicians to strike a climate agreement by 2015 in Paris.
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