CLIMATE change is a terrible problem and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority.
A recent international report has warned that the world faces a very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts from climate change unless action is taken to cut emissions, and any delay would greatly increase the costs. The warning came as the United Nations climate body published the final report of its latest assessment on climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed that it was more than 95% certain that the majority of the warming since the 1950s was down to human activity.
According to its Synthesis Report, 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 leaves the world at risk of temperatures soaring by 4.8C or even higher by 2100. The report said it was possible to tackle climate change, but the pledges made by countries to cut greenhouse gases by 2020 were not enough. And it warned that a delay in cutting emissions until 2030 will make it much harder to keep temperature rises below 2C.
But action to tackle emissions would not have a major impact on economic growth, which is expected to be between 1.6% and 3% a year, and ambitious moves on climate change are likely to curb that by just 0.06 percentage points. 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.
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 closes to stay within 2C of warming. 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 sets out the case on climate change for policymakers and has been subject to scrutiny and approval by governments.
“The findings of this report are unequivocal. Scientists now know that humans are causing climate change with the same level of certainty that we know smoking causes cancer. The evidence presented today also confirms that climate change is already happening and that its impacts are ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’.
“However, it said if we are going to avoid irreversible changes to the climate, we need to leave the vast majority of our fossil fuel reserves in the ground and switch investment to the clean solutions that are becoming more available, and cheaper, now.”
The report comes at a critical time. Next month, government delegations from around the world will meet in Lima, Peru to lay the groundwork for an international agreement to limit climate change. It is due to be signed in Paris in December 2015.
Trócaire executive director Éamonn Meehan said it was fitting that this report was released on Halloween weekend because the findings of the IPCC report are terrifying for the future of humanity.
“Once again, the experts have warned us that the current level of political action is not enough to stop a future marked by species extinction, hunger, flooding, drought and increased poverty. The IPCC has delivered yet another stark warning of what we face tomorrow if we do not take action today,” said Mr Meehan.
What the IPCC also tells us is that this problem is not hopeless. We can avert the worst predictions but we need the political will to take the necessary steps now.