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Published: Sunday 2nd November 2014 by The News Editor
The world faces the “very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible” impacts from climate change without action to cut emissions, a major international report has warned
Experts warned there was little time before the window of opportunity to limit temperature rises to below dangerous levels closed, and that delaying action would greatly increase the costs.
The warning came as the United Nations climate body published the final report of its latest assessment on the science of climate change, drawing together three studies published in the past year.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed that global warming was “unequivocal” and human influence on the climate was clear.
It was “extremely likely” or more than 95% certain that the majority of the warming since the 1950s was down to human activity.
Climate change was already having an impact on every continent, affecting human health, agriculture and wildlife, and increasing weather extremes, the Synthesis Report said.
Massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed in the coming decades to curb temperature rises to no more than 2C – the level at which it is thought dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.
A failure to take more action than is already planned to curb greenhouse gases leaves the world at risk of temperatures soaring 3.7C to 4.8C, or even higher, by 2100.
The report said it was possible to tackle climate change, with many available solutions to cutting emissions, but the pledges made by countries to cut greenhouse gases by 2020 were not enough.
And it warned that delaying taking more action to cut emissions until 2030 will make it much harder to keep temperature rises to below 2C.
But action to tackle emissions would not have a major impact on economic growth, with global growth expected to be between 1.6% and 3% a year, and ambitious moves on climate change likely to curb that by just 0.06 percentage points.
In a stark warning, the report said that without extra action to bring down emissions, global warming by the end of the century “will lead to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally”.
Continued emissions rises will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and nature, it warned.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC 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, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
He said the scientific case for prioritising action on climate change was clearer than ever.
But he warned: “We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2C of warming closes.
“To keep a good chance of staying below 2C, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40% to 70% globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100.
“We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands.”
The Synthesis Report brings together the three parts of the IPCC’s fifth assessment on climate change, an analysis which involves thousands of scientists and experts and drew on 30,000 scientific papers.
The Synthesis Report sets out the case on climate change for policymakers and has been subject to scrutiny and approval by governments.
Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said: ” The IPCC Synthesis Report is clear: climate change is happening and 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.
“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.”
The report comes as efforts build towards securing a new global treaty on climate change, which it is hoped can be agreed in Paris at the end of next year, and it said that international co-operation was “critical” for effective efforts to tackle the problem.
The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, which represents businesses ranging from BT to Thames Water, Shell, EDF and Unilever, called on governments to set ambitious global climate targets.
Philippe Joubert, chairman of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, said: “The findings of this report are required reading for government offices and board rooms around the world.”
And he said the report concluded there were solutions within reach, a message that business leaders understood.
“Many businesses, such as those represented in the Corporate Leaders Group are already investing in a low-carbon future.
“But if we are to unlock the scale of change that we need, we must have a level of policy clarity equal to this scientific clarity.”
Following the publication of the report, Lord Stern – who wrote the key study on the economics of climate change – attacked Australian prime minister Tony Abbott for refusing to make climate change a major issue at the upcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane.
And he said: “This report shows that there is no real intellectual basis for denying the risks of climate change, and governments should be focused on how best to make the transition to low-carbon economic development and growth.
“Now is the time, with very low interest rates and unemployed resources, to invest in the growth story of future, and manage the great transformations in energy systems, urban planning and land use.”
A recent major global study on the economy and climate showed it was possible to create “both better growth and a better environment”, he added.
Published: Sunday 2nd November 2014 by The News Editor