Cover of the "How to Save the Climate" brochure.
A 131 foot banner simulating a ruler for measuring the sea level, and bearing a message "It's not too late" on Copacabana Beach. Rio de Janeiro is one of the Brazilian cities morevulnerable to the rising of the ocean level.
The report was agreed after almost a week of negotiations, at the end of a tense 24 hour marathon session which became increasingly political, angering some scientists (1). The second of a series of four to be released throughout 2007, this report documents the widespread effects that rising temperatures are already having on ecosystems and human activities and assesses the changes projected from human induced climate change over the next century.
"This is a glimpse into an apocalyptic future. The earth will be transformed by human induced climate change, unless action is taken soon and fast," said Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace International Climate & Energy Campaigner. "What this report shows is that we are simply running out of time."
Climate change is already affecting millions of people, ecosystems and species in all regions of the world. However, unless immediate action is taken now to reduce emissions it is likely that climate change will cause greater and even more harmful impacts such as mass extinction of species; billions of people facing water scarcity; increased drought; sea level rises; storm surges; river flooding and more hunger and misery through reductions in food production capacity in the poorest parts of the world (2).
"Everyone who cares about the fate of the earth should now stand up and demand action by Governments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and prevent the worst of this nightmare vision from becoming a reality. If we fail to act quickly, decisively and with great vigour there will soon be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide," said Tunmore.
In its February 2007 report "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis" (2), the IPCC expressed a greater than 90% certainty that most of the observed warming over the past half-century is caused by human activities. The latest report adds more detail, documenting the effect that rising temperatures have already had on people and ecosystems and what the future holds under different scenarios.
"We still have options," said Tunmore. "There is still time for an energy revolution that will dramatically transform our energy system and create a carbon free economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level that keeps the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees C, avoiding the most catastrophic impacts."
"The one option that is clearly no longer open to us after this report is to continue to sit on our hands and do nothing."
Other contacts: Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace International, +44 77 969 474 51 Laetitia de Marez, Greenpeace International, +31 646 162 020 John Coequyt, Greenpeace USA, +1 202 262 0831 Gabriela von Goerne, Greenpeace Germany, +49 171 878 0839 Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960
VVPR info: Greenpeace has documented through stills and video climate change impacts across the world ranging from Kiribati in the South Pacific, the Yellow River in China to the Amazon in South America, please contact Michael Nagasaka for clipreel and news features on climate changeimpacts, +31 646 166 309 and Franca Michienzi for stills, +31 653 819 255.
Notes: Greenpeace is calling for global emissions to peak by 2020 and fall rapidly thereafter ensuring at least a 50% reduction globally from 1990 levels by the year 2050, and eliminate fossil fuel emissions before the end of the 21st century. Governments must begin negotiations towards these targets at the UNFCCC Ministerial Climate Summit in Bali at the end of November this year and agree to conclude these negotiations by the end of 2009, at the latest to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol can continue. (1) In a late night maneuver after nearly 22 hours of negotiations Saudi Arabia, China and Russia gutted a key figure in the IPCC report on impacts, removing a graph of the warming effects of fossil fuel emissions from a key summary table. The move was described in an emotional statement to the Plenary by a senior climate scientist as an "act of scientific vandalism". Without the warming graph the table of impacts lacks a context to show when the projected impacts would occur. In another development China and Saudi Arabia forced the weakening of a key finding on the effects of recent warming on natural systems. The original finding was that: Based on observational evidence from all continents and most oceans, there is [very] high confidence that many natural systems, are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases. China and Saudi Arabia insisted in the removal of "very" although the confidence in the findings was more than 99.9%. The watered down conclusion was adopted over the top of fundamental scientific objections by the scientists who authored the IPCC report. Greenpeace said that this was unprecedented in the history of the IPCC since 1988 and was an ugly and damaging development. "To our knowledge there have been no similar acts in the history of the IPCC". (2) Amongst the key findings of the report are as follows: * It is likely that climate change will induce mass extinction of species within 60-70 years. We have already seen the climate linked extinction of some frog species but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The scale of risk is larger than most of the five major extinction events that have occurred in the earth's history. * Over the next decades the number of people at risk of water scarcity is likely to rise from tens of millions to billions. Steadily decreasing water availability is projected for India and other parts of South Asia and Africa: whilst the poorest parts of the world are going to the hardest hit, wealthy countries such as Australia and nations in Southern Europe are also on the front line. * Reductions in food production capacity in the poorest parts of the world are projected, bringing more hunger and misery and undermining achievement of the millennium development goals Within a few decades it is likely that we will see climate change induced wheat, maize and rice production drops in India and China * Increased drought and water scarcity are likely to lead to growing problems of hunger and human dislocation in Africa in coming decades. * The loss of glaciers in Asia, Latin America and Europe are set to cause major water supply problems for a large fraction of the world's population, as well as a massive increase in glacial lake outburst floods and other risks for those living in the glaciated mountains. * Huge numbers of people will be at risk due to sea level rise, storm surge and river flooding in the Asian Megadeltas such as the Ganges-Brahmaputra (Bangladesh) and the Zhujiang (Pearl River). * Warming of more than another degree could commit the world to multi-metre sea level rise over several centuries from the partial or total loss of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. Huge coastal dislocation would result and could be triggered by emissions made in the next several decades.