Climate change – the latest perspectives from the UN

DEFRA – the UK’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is reporting that the United Nation’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the third volume of its 5th Assessment Report on Climate Change: Mitigation of Climate Change in Berlin, last Friday.

The report was finalised after a six-day meeting attended by delegates from over 100 countries and a number of the Report’s expert authors. It looks at how to address the issues and risks identified in the first two reports by reducing those activities that contribute to human-induced climate change. The report also looks at current greenhouse gas emissions, the levels they will need to fall to in future, and how this can be achieved. The report recognises that climate change is a global problem and looks at the contribution all regions can make in tackling the problem.

This is the most significant report on the topic since the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report in 2007. It has been prepared over the last four years by 235 experts from across the world who reached their conclusions by reviewing thousands of published research papers. It has undergone peer review by many other scientists, experts and by IPCC member governments. The key findings of the report are:

1)    Greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, and the rate of increase has itself been increasing – most of this increase is being driven by increasing global prosperity.

2)    On a business-as-usual pathway, global mean temperatures will increase by 3 to 5 degrees over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

3)    Staying under the 2 degree limit is possible but increasingly difficult – it will require a wide range of changes, including changes in technology, institutions and behaviours.

4)    Efforts to reduce emissions needs to take place across all sectors (e.g. energy, transport, agriculture) and all regions – reductions in demand for energy (through, for example, energy efficiency measures) can play a big part.

5)    Many countries already have policies in place to reduce emissions, but much more needs to be done – investment in clean technology needs to be massively scaled-up and mitigation policies need to be integrated into broader political considerations, such as growth, jobs and the environment.

6)    Dealing with climate change needs international action and international cooperation to solve the problem.

Although the IPCC didn’t focus on individual countries, the ‘impacts, vulnerability and adaptation’ report did identify three key risks from climate change for Europe. These are:

  1. Increased economic losses and more people affected by flooding in river basins and coasts, as urbanisation continues, sea levels rise and peak river flows increase;
  2. Increased water restrictions. Significant reduction in water availability from river abstraction and from groundwater resources combined with increased water demand (eg for irrigation, energy and industry and domestic use);
  3. Increased economic losses and people affected by extreme heat events: impacts on health and well-being, labour productivity, crop production and air quality

 

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