IPCC’s Synthesis Report released in Copenhagen on Sunday reiterates that human activities are having an “unequivocal” and “irreversible” warming effect on the Earth’s climate system.
What is the Synthesis Report?
It is the fourth and final installment of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is described as the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever made. The other three reports came out over 14 months starting Sept 2013. It seeks to goad governments and policymakers to act urgently on climate change. IPCC’s Assessment Reports have produced increasingly strong evidence that human influences are altering natural variations in the climate system, which can have catastrophic effects on Earth and all life systems. The fourth AR won IPCC the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
What does the Synthesis Report say?
Reiterates what IPCC has said over the last two decades, but with greater confidence, with backing of stronger scientific evidence. Essentially, that human influence on climate is “clear”, that recent “anthropogenic” emissions have resulted a concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is “unprecedented” in the last “800,000 years”, that the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal”. Burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes account for 78 per cent of increase in emissions from 1970. Economic and population growth is the main driver of the increase of emissions through combustion of fossil fuels.
What is the impact of all this?
Oceans are warmer, huge amounts of snow and ice have vanished, sea levels have risen. Extreme weather patterns, like unusually heavy rain, can be linked to “human influences”. It is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased, and the number of warm days and nights has increased globally. Continued emissions will lead to “long-lasting” changes in climate systems, increasing the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impact.
What can be done to prevent this?
To keep the rise in surface temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius — considered necessary to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change — global emissions need to be cut by at least 40% to 70% by 2050 as compared to 2010 levels. By 2100, if the 2-degree barrier is not to be breached, this cut needs to be almost 100% of 2010 levels. There is still a small window of opportunity to stay within the 2-degree limit, but the response has to be immediate and adequate. A mix of mitigation, adaptation, “pursuit of other social objectives” is required.
What happens to the Report?
The Report is the basis on which the global climate negotiations are taking place. It comes weeks before the annual climate conference in Lima, which is supposed to prepare the ground for an agreement on a comprehensive global climate agreement, which everyone is hoping could be delivered at the next conference in Paris in 2015.