“We are riding in an airplane with the bolts falling out while heading into a storm.”
By Stephen Leahy*
TORONTO, Nov 19 (Tierramérica) – In the end, governments accepted evidence from the world’s top scientists that climate change impacts could be abrupt and irreversible, and that they require urgent action.
“The threat is real,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“I have seen the impacts of climate change in Antarctica and the Amazon with my own eyes,” Ban said in a press conference in Valencia, Spain, at Saturday’s public unveiling of the Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“It is a very strong document. It sends a stark message that we face abrupt and irreversible impacts,” said Hans Verolme, director of the climate change programme for the international environmental group WWF.
“The report shows that the window for action is closing. Policy-makers need to take action,” Verolme told Tierramérica in an interview from Valencia Saturday.
The 24-page Synthesis Report and shorter Synthesis Summary for Policymakers summarise the scientific findings from the IPCC’s 2,800-page, three-volume assessment of climate change released earlier in the year.
“The Synthesis Report sets out concrete and affordable ways to deal with (climate change),” noted Ban.
The report details various effects, including increased extreme weather and sea level rises of more than one metre by 2100, and what future global temperature increases may come, depending on how much more carbon dioxide (CO2 – the main greenhouse gas) ends up in the atmosphere.
Previously, the IPCC had suggested stabilising the climate by preventing CO2 concentrations from surpassing about 450 parts per million by 2050. Current CO2 levels are around 381 ppm.
Shockingly absent from the new report is the scientific assessment of the need to reduce emissions 25 to 40 percent by 2020 in order to achieve that stabilisation target.
At an informal IPCC meeting Aug. 31 in Vienna, representatives from industrialised countries agreed that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Based on the dire warnings from scientists of the need to sharply curb emissions, even the United States and Canada “swallowed hard and accepted this”, says Verolme.
Although Verolme thought this first-ever agreement on a reduction range for industrialised nations was mentioned in one of the report’s many tables, Tierramérica could find no reference to it anywhere in the document.
It appears not to have survived the word-by-word examination by government representatives.
“There is no debate about the science. The debates are about the words,” says Monirul Mirza, an environmental scientist at the University of Toronto and one of the three dozen authors of the draft of the Synthesis Report.
“We summarised the key findings of the main report,” Mirza told Tierramérica from Valencia.
For complete story see Emergency Brakes Needed to Stop Climate Crash