UN says science has spoken on climate change

Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Mark Garten via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

On Sunday, the world’s climate eyes were focused again on the Danish capital, Copenhagen, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the most comprehensive report to date on the science of climate change.

The last time climate eyes were focused on Copenhagen was in 2009 at the much anticipated Cop 15 summit which is widely seen as the biggest disappointment in climate negotiation history, as no deal was reached then. Following the failure, climate issues, for some time, almost entirely disappeared from governments agenda.

The Synthesis report released Sunday in Copenhagen, where scientists for the last week had been finalising the comprehensive report, is the fourth and last installment in IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.

The Synthesis is based on the three previous reports and states human influence on the climate is clear, and that recent emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are the highest in history and says changes in our climate have already had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

Since the 1950’s many of the observed changes are unprecedented, the atmosphere and ocean has warmed while snow and ice has diminished and sea levels risen. The evidence of warming is there for everyone to see as each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850, the report states.

Some organisations, people, governments and industry have been claiming that the scientific evidence is not sufficient to claim with certainty that humans are to blame for climate change. But this landmark report makes it clear that with near certainty there can be no doubt anymore that humans are to blame for the rapid rise in CO2 emissions causing climate change stating: Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

The chair of the IPCC Rajendra K. Pachauri was joined at the Copenhagen press conference by the UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The UN head said that now the science is conclusive, it is time to act.

The UN report made it clear we have the technologies act. By 2050 our electricity source must be largely low carbon (renewables and nuclear) and fossil fuels must be entirely phased out by 2100.

Those comments were echoed by Danish Climate and Energy minister Rasmus Helveg Petersen who said the age of doubt is over and that we must up the ambition leading up to the Paris summit in 2015, where a global deal must be reached. Denmark had a few days earlier said they could be phasing out coal usage as early as 2025 as part of their plan to be completely fossil fuel free by 2050. This had prompted Greenpeace to name Denmark as the world’s number one country in enacting climate policies and deploying renewable energy. Symbolic, as the report was being unveiled, Danish wind turbines produced over 75% of Denmark’s electricity demand.

Greenpeace Denmark Executive Director, Mads Flarup Christensen commented:
“Other countries need to show Denmark’s courage; we have committed to 100 per cent renewable energy and now we aim to speed up the process of saying good-bye to coal. This is not a bluff, this is the move of a progressive country with a very good hand of cards.”

While Friends of the Earth International climate campaigner Asad Rehman said:
“If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change governments must stop dithering and take bold action to slash our carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent in the next 15 years. That means saying no to any new dirty energy sources, including fracking.’’

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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