IPCC scientists summarize: Climate change happening now and much faster than anticipated. We must not delay further in getting off of fossil fuels. We need a doubling or tripling of efforts!

September 30, 2016

Summary by IPCC Scientists, including Catholic Leader leads to three top points

  1. A drastic change in the way the world produces and uses energy 
  2. Getting off of fossil fuels without delay is imperative.  Already, the delay in phase out of fossil fuels has raised the need for measures to store & remove and technologies in this area CO2  and are unreliable and even unlikely, at the scale needed.  Staying on fossil fuels is not an option!
  3. Adaptation.  Some examples of adaptation measures and policies to be implemented include:
    • In freshwater resources: rainwater harvesting, water reuse, desalination, and more efficient soil and irrigation water management, as well as restoring and protecting freshwater habitats, and managing natural floodplains.
    • In food production systems: altering cultivation and sowing times for key crops, breeding additional drought-tolerant crop varieties, improving water management and access to irrigation, as well as using water delivery systems more efficiently.
    • In urban adaptation: city-based disaster risk management such as early warning systems and infrastructure investments; ecosystem-based adaptation and green roofs; enhanced storm and wastewater management; urban and peri-urban agriculture improving food security; and good-quality, affordable, and well-located housing.

    “The key issue is the scale of impacts and risks we are willing to bear and the mitigation actions we are willing to implement in order to minimize those impacts,” says Dr. Pablo Canziani, who helped found GCCM.

Global average temperature has already reached 1ºC (1.8ºF) above pre-industrial levels in 2015, according to the World Meteorological Organization. This is a significant increase in only three years, compared to the 0.85ºC above pre-industrial times in 2012, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the premier scientific body on climate change in its Fifth Assessment Report.

Weather-related events –temperature, precipitation and wind conditions— have already changed everywhere due to climate change. The evidence is what most have been experiencing as unusual weather events, such as changes in average rain patterns leading to floods or droughts, more intense storms, heat waves and wildfires, among others daily examples. Since 1990, weather-related events due to climate change have doubled in number. Recent research found that the worst typhoons or hurricanes in the Pacific have increased by 50%.

An increase in global average temperature of 2ºC (3.6º F) above pre-industrial levels within the next couple of decades could lead to an additional doubling of the number of these weather-related events.

Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated,” says Sir Robert Watson, former Chair of the IPCC. “While the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is an important step in the right direction, what is needed is a doubling or tripling of efforts.”

Most climate experts believe that the Paris Agreement is a step forward, because without its pledges, global GHG emissions are projected to increase by about 20 percent from current levels in 2030, reaching 65 GtCO2-eq.  However, to stay below 2ºC, global GHG emissions should drop to 42 GtCO2-eq in 2030. Due to thermal inertia, primarily in the oceans, a certain amount of warming is in the pipeline of coming decades; as a consequence of GHGs that have already been emitted, an additional warming of 0.4-0.5ºC is expected.

Even with all countries uniting and adopting the Paris Agreement with the goal of holding global temperature well below 2ºC, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not expected to decrease fast enough in the next 15 years.  The assessment of current pledges to combat climate change representing 189 countries show that global GHG emissions will be 33 percent above the level of what they should be to stay below 2ºC (3.6º F) above pre-industrial levels in 2030, according to the United Nation Environment Programme’s The Emissions Gap Report 2015.

“It is not enough to agree on a temperature target. The current pledges are only initial steps, and many more ambitious steps must follow,” says Prof. Thomas Stocker, University of Bern and former Co-chair of the IPCC Working Group I. “Substantial and sustained action is needed”.

The scientists new analysis and summary, titled The Truth about Climate Change, is co-authored by six top climate scientists and Liliana Hisas of the Universal Ecological Fund (FEU-US). The report summarizes and synthesizes the conclusions from the IPCC and key climate research to analyze the outcome of the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The report urges action now, because the less that is done now, the more that will be required in the future.

“We have to wipe out the misconception that reducing emissions is incompatible with economic development,” says Ms. Liliana Hisas, Executive Director of FEU-US. “It is just a matter of developing in a different way, while combating and adapting to climate change.

“The climate is already changing. The evidence is what most have been experiencing as unusual weather events, such as floods, droughts and wildfires. Some of these impacts of climate change will be beneficial, while most will not, negatively impacting lives and livelihoods everywhere.”

To stay below 2°C, global CO2 emissions should be net zero by 2060.  Trees and plants and the ocean, called carbon sinks, currently remove about half of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. “The other half concentrates in the atmosphere, where it remains for hundreds of years. It is these atmospheric concentrations that are causing the climate to change,” says Dr. Pablo Canziani, Senior Scientist at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Professor at the National Technological University in Argentina and former Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group I.  “As a result of the increased CO2 uptake, the oceans are also warming and acidifying. If this trend continues, their capacity to retain CO2 is reduced, and thus global warming would accelerate.”

Actions to reach net zero CO2 emissions

To reach net zero CO2 emissions, the following measures need to be implemented:

1. A drastic change in the way the world produces and uses energy 

About 82 percent of the energy (electricity, fuel and natural gas) currently produced in the world is obtained by burning fossil fuels –31 percent oil, 29 percent coal and 22 percent natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency.

Because energy is used by various sectors, measures and policies should be implemented in each of these sectors. Some examples include:

  • Increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy for electricity generation –currently non-fossil fuel electricity generation is 30 percent –16 percent from hydropower, 5 percent from renewables and 11 percent from nuclear power.
  • Increasing the energy efficiency in the housing and industrial sector.
  • Promoting the electrification of vehicles.
  • Including on-site renewable energy systems in existing and new buildings.

“Actions in all sectors contribute to emission reductions,” says Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Ph.D., Deputy Director General of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group III. “For example, electrification of cars and buildings that rely on decarbonized electricity also means that overall emissions will decline.”

More than half of the INDCs only focus on measures in the energy sector, with some countries aiming at 100 percent renewable energy supply for the electricity sector. Focusing on transforming the production of electricity is a good start, but we need to address all sources of GHGs as well as sinks,” says Dr. Watson “Focusing only on electricity generation misses the emissions generated by other sectors, such as transport, industrial processes, waste management, and crop and livestock production, among others. Clearly, a much more comprehensive approach must be implemented.”

2.  Getting off of fossil fuels without delay is imperative.  Already, the delay in phase out of fossil fuels has raised the need for measures to store & remove CO2  

Because the phase out of fossil fuels will not happen fast enough, the world is faced with needing to engage, maintain hope in and continue to research largely unproven strategies technologies to capture CO2 emissions or reflect sunlight.  The dependence on these negative emission technologies as an option to control climate change is still unproven,” says Dr. Nakicenovic. Further delaying action to transition to a low-carbon economy and relying instead on these future technologies is not an option.”

It is urgent to stay below 2ºC (3.6º F), so measures such as the following are likely to be needed:

  • Improving crop, water and livestock management and reducing deforestation.
  • Reforestation and conversion of non-forested land into forest are vital. To significantly contribute to net zero CO2 emissions through these activities would imply expanding the current world’s forest cover, at least, twofold. Such massive expansion, though, is constrained by available land.
  • Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS). The production of energy by burning biomass coupled with CCS could offer negative emissions because the CO2 absorbed by trees and plants during their growth can be captured and stored deep underground.

There are significant concerns associated with BECCS, such as competition for food, land and water to grow the necessary biomass (such as fuelwood and agriculture residue) sustainably, and the potential loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems and their services.   The potential of large-scale deployment of BECCS is unknown because there are currently no large-scale bioenergy-CCS plants in the world. Even if negative emission technologies are tested and deployed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, their impact in controlling climate change will not be immediate. Global temperature will continue to increase for decades, after these negative emission technologies are applied, the IPCC analysis concluded.

3. Adaptation

The adverse impacts of climate change are already being felt, and additional impacts are unavoidable, according to the latest IPCC report. Thus, to complement emission reductions, adaptation measures will help prepare and manage the risks and negative impacts on key economic sectors, human health, livelihoods and ecosystems.

“Climate change is already causing harm. Although implementation of the Paris Agreement will slow the rate of change, we will still need widespread adaptation to reduce its risks,” says James J. McCarthy, Professor of Oceanography, Harvard University and former Co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II. “It is important that appropriate adaptation measures be planned and implemented with sensitivity to specific regional context.”

Some examples of adaptation measures and policies to be implemented include:

  • In freshwater resources: rainwater harvesting, water reuse, desalination, and more efficient soil and irrigation water management, as well as restoring and protecting freshwater habitats, and managing natural floodplains.
  • In food production systems: altering cultivation and sowing times for key crops, breeding additional drought-tolerant crop varieties, improving water management and access to irrigation, as well as using water delivery systems more efficiently.
  • In urban adaptation: city-based disaster risk management such as early warning systems and infrastructure investments; ecosystem-based adaptation and green roofs; enhanced storm and wastewater management; urban and peri-urban agriculture improving food security; and good-quality, affordable, and well-located housing.

“The key issue is the scale of impacts and risks we are willing to bear and the mitigation actions we are willing to implement in order to minimize those impacts,” says Dr. Canziani.

 

Sources:

Countries in each group, based on the categorization used by the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_annex-ii.pdf

AR5, Working Group III (Chapter 1) Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR). European Commission, Joint Research Centre/PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

 

The Truth About Climate Change Report 

Co-authors

Sir Robert Watson (United Kingdom), former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is the Chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). He has served on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. He was the Chief Scientific Officer for the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Chief Scientist and Senior Advisor for Sustainable Development for The World Bank; Senior Adviser for the White House; and Director of the Science Division and Chief Scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Dr. Carlo Carraro (Italy), Vice-Chair of the IPCC Working Group III. He is the Scientific Director of the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), Professor of Environmental Economics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice; President of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE), Director of the International Centre for Climate Governance (ICCG), and Co-chair of the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP).

Dr. Pablo Canziani (Argentina), former Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group I. He is a Senior Scientist at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) and Professor at the National Technological University in Argentina. He is a lead author for UNEP/WMO Ozone Assessments; and member of the Scientific Committee of the Stratospheric Processes and their Role in ClimateWorld Climate Research Programme. He is a founding member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Prof. Dr. Nebojsa Nakicenovic (Austria), Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group III and Convening Lead Author of the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. He is the Deputy Director General and Deputy CEO of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He is also a Member of the United Nations Secretary General High-Level Technical Group, the Advisory Council of the German Government on Global Change, the International Council for Science, and the Co-chair of the Global Carbon Project.

Dr. James J. McCarthy (United States), former Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group II. He is Professor of Oceanography at Harvard University. He served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. José Goldemberg (Brazil), former Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group III. He is Professor Emeritus of the University of São Paulo and President of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). Dr. Goldemberg served as Brazil’s Secretary of State for Science and Technology; and as Co-president of the Global Energy Council. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, and served as the President of Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science.

Liliana Hisas (Argentina), Executive Director of the Universal Ecological Fund, the US office of Fundacion Ecologica Universal (FEU), in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She authored numerous publications, explaining sustainable development, global environment and climate change in an accessible way. For the last decade, her main focus of work has been climate change. She also led numerous capacity development, information and advocacy campaigns. She holds a MA in Journalism from the Universidad del Salvador in Argentina.

Reviewer

Dr. Thomas Stocker (Switzerland), former Co-chair of the IPCC Working Group I. He is a Professor of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern.