Polar Bears International

11/11/2014 4:49:50 PM

Climate Change: Stark Conclusions from the 2014 IPCC Synthesis Report

What is the IPCC and what is the new report issued last week? The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Established in 1988 under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Program, the panel's task is to provide a scientific assessment of climate change and its potential impacts to their 195 member governments.

If the panel sounds impressive, it is. The IPCC commissions volunteer experts from a variety of disciplines including science, economics, and policy from around the world. For the latest Assessment Report, the fifth to date, the IPCC relied on three groups consisting of:

  • Working Group 1 (Science): 259 lead authors from 39 countries, incorporating 54,677 comments from reviewers
  • Working Group 2 (Impacts and Adaptation): 308 lead authors from 70 countries, incorporating 50,492 review comments
  • Working Group 3 (Policy and economics): 235 lead authors from 58 countries, incorporating 38,315 comments

That represents a huge body of work and tremendous effort. So what are the main take-aways? Well they are significant enough to quote in full as they impact us all, not just polar bears and not just the Arctic:

  • Evidence of climate change is unequivocal
  • It is more than 95% likely that human activities, particularly greenhouse gases emissions, are the dominant cause
  • Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide now substantially exceed the highest concentrations recorded during the past 800,000 years
  • Climate change is already having observable and meaningful impacts around the world, affecting crops, fresh water supplies, the ocean, nature, cities, and infrastructure
  • Climate change will reduce yields of staple crops such as wheat, rice, and maize by up to 2% per decade for the rest of the century, while demand will grow by 14%
  • Impacts will fall most heavily on the poor - trapping communities in poverty, undermining poverty reduction, increasing health issues such as infant malnutrition, and increasing risk factors for conflict
  • Past emissions have already "locked in" decades of climate impacts. Some impacts can be adapted to; others cannot
  • The internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 2°C is achievable, but governments' existing pledges on cutting emissions are not enough to get there 
  • Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
  • Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks
  • There are multiple pathways likely to limit warming to below 2°C. These will require substantial emission reductions over the next few decades, and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century.

The new report provides pathways to change, but the stark realities of what we face if we fail to act should motivate us all to come together to solve this problem. Please sign our Petition for Polar Bears to let world leaders know you want meaningful action. By signing, you'll speak up for polar bears—and people too.

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