Monday, November 10, 2014

IPCC Synthesis Report: Background and Summary

In November the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its final world Synthesis Report. This is the world's most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change. The conclusions in the report are the starkest warnings yet. Urgent action is required as we are rapidly running out of time.

The final Synthesis Report summarizes three massive climate investigations:

1. The report on the physical science of climate change was released in September 2013. It reiterated the finding that humans are the leading cause of climate change. They further demonstrated that as measured by a number of indicators (ice sheet melt, glacial melt and sea level rise), climate change is occurred faster than predicted. It further stated that this is impacting meteorological conditions by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

2. The report on impacts, adaptations, and vulnerability was released in March 2014. It found that people everywhere are vulnerable to climate change and we have done little to adapt to them. It further concluded that climate change is already harming agricultural yields and affecting food availability and prices. In the absence of immediate action temperatures increases will exceed the internationally agreed upon upper threshold limit of 2ºC.

3. The report on mitigation measures was released in April 2014 it concluded that we must see massive reductions in carbon emissions from the energy sector. It further indicated that our use of renewable forms of energy must quadruple by 2050. It stated that with the cost of renewables declines, deforestation slowing we still have a chance to stay within the 2ºC upper temperature limit, if we act soon. It further stated that we cannot afford to keep investing in fossil fuel infrastructure without surpassing the upper temperature limits.

Brief Review of the Synthesis Report

The final report restates the fact that the scientific case is irrefutable and immediate action is needed. Humans are the cause of climate change and we are already seeing its impacts on every continent. If we do not reign-in greenhouse gases we will see profound impacts that will fundamentally alter the natural world and human society.

Policy Action Required

What we need in terms of action is serious policy shifts. Youba Sokona, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III (Mitigation), finds it technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy. However, he notes, "what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change."

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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