Strongest Climate warning yet demands action

Feature story - February 2, 2007
With the strongest warnings yet from the international scientific community on the threat of dangerous climate change just published, it's clearly time to match strengths of scientific warnings with determined action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We highlight the fact that taking action now is vital to prevent dangerous climate change. An increase of global temperature over 2°C is predicted to cause catastrophic climate impacts.

The latest report on the science of climate change from theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Paris,concluded that continuing polluting business-as-usual practices islikely to increase global average temperatures between 1.1°C and 6.4° Cabove 1980-1999 levels by 2095, leading to more droughts, heatwaves,floods and stronger hurricanes, rapid melting of ice-sheets and rapidlyrising sea levels.

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Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace climate campaigner who was atthe meeting in Paris said, "The good news is our understanding of theclimate system and our impact on it has improved immensely. The badnews is that the more we know, the more precarious the future looks.There's a clear message to Governments here, and the window for actionis narrowing fast. If the last IPCC report was a wake up call, this oneis a screaming siren."

The main findings of the IPCC report are summarised below. Further reports will follow this year on at the probableimpacts of climate change, options for adapting to those impacts, andpossible routes to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

What's a few degrees?

While temperature increases of a few degrees might not sound sodramatic it will have dramatic effects on our climate. That's why isvital that action is taken now to reduce emissions and keep warmingbelow 2°C to prevent catastrophic climate impacts.

Fortunately there is a blueprint for how to do this - the energy(r)evolution. It shows how to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, usingexisting technology and still providing affordable energy and economicgrowth. In short - a revolution in energy policy and an evolution inhow we use energy.


We can have reliable renewable energy, and use energy more smartly toachieve the cuts in carbon emissions required to prevent dangerousclimate change. Crucially this can be done while phasing out damagingand dangerous coal and nuclear energy.

As the science of climate change becomes ever more clear and alarming,public concern is increasing rapidly. One of the few things notmatching the warning is the scale of real action from governments toreduce emissions. If this stark warning goes unheeded futuregenerations, enduring a warmer world of our own making, will not lookkindly on lack of action at the start of the 21st Century.

Summary of major findings of the IPCC report

  • Human impact on climate has now been attributed with a 90percent confidence, higher than in earlier assessments, and has beenfound in all world regions.
  • An increase in thetheoretical climate 'sensitivity', i.e., how the climate will respondto a doubling of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere compared topre-industrial levels. Previously, the best estimate for warming inrelation to GHG doubling was 2.5 degrees centigrade, and now that hasincreased to 3 degrees centigrade.
  • Broad confirmation that therange of warming expected by 2100 if emissions are not reduced is 1.1°Cand 6.4°C by 2095 over 1980-1999 levels (1).
  • The intensity oftropical storms is likely to increase, a finding that was not possiblein the Third Assessment Report (TAR). Observed increases in intensityare highly correlated with increased sea surface temperature.
  • TheAntarctic and Greenland ice sheets contributed a substantial amount(around 15 percent) to the observed increase in sea level over the1993-2003 period. However, the models say that the Antarctic ice sheetshould in fact be growing, due to increased precipitation, meaning thatas yet the models cannot explain the increase in the discharge of iceespecially from Antarctica, and don't fully account for the rapidmelting and discharge of ice from Greenland. So, while it's known thatsea-level rise will probably be greater, it is still difficult toquantify precisely by how much.
  • A warming of 1.9 to 4.6°C abovepre-industrial levels, (well within the range expected for the 21stcentury) would lead to the virtual elimination of the Greenland Icesheet, if that warming is sustained for thousand years or more. Thatwould raise sea level by between 6 and 7 metres. The report also foundthat future temperatures projected over Greenland are comparable tothose from a warm period 125, 000 years ago, when sea levels were 4-6metres higher than they are today.

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