Change policies, not the climate!
On Monday 30th September the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) - which is composed of about 800 top scientists from around the world - will release its report on the latest scientific research on climate. The summary for policy makers is currently being finalised by the different government representatives in Stockholm and will be presented this morning at 10 am.
The IPCC reports are the most comprehensive global overview to date of the science behind climate change. These climate reports are used by governments to help them take the necessary action to prevent catastrophic global warming and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As a consensus making body, the IPCC has been rather cautious in many of its estimates. Individual scholars, such as Lord Nichlas Stern, have pointed out more clearly how the warming of 3-4 degrees would mean a very different climate system than the one in which human civilization has developed. If climate action is not taken swiftly, 3-4 degree warming is already possible in this century, the current infant's lifetime. This risk we do not have the right to take.
This new overview on the science of climate change is expected to again show that climate change is happening, humans are having a major impact, and that the world is on track to soon be 2°C warmer. Experts around the world are noting that greenhouse gas concentrations and the global temperature have increased, our oceans have warmed, that the sea level is projected to rise rapidly and that the ice sheets, permafrost and glaciers continue to decrease at rapid pace in the northern hemisphere.
The reality of climate change is worrying. Global warming is unequivocal and scientists are now near certain that human activities are causing climate change. Troubling news, although you might feel somewhat relieved by those papers stating that there has been a fifteen year pause in global warming and that temperatures have been rising more slowly despite increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. However, unfortunately, this is no reason for optimism as much of the heat is apparently trapped by the oceans, which is not good news. According to many scientists the 15-year pause in global warming is unlikely to last and will be followed by even faster rising temperatures across the globe, unless rapid action is taken now.
In November, the annual UN climate negotiations will take place in Warsaw. World leaders will try to work on the details of a global climate deal that needs to be finalized at the climate conference in Paris in 2015. The agreement will need to be ambitious enough to limit global warming to below 2°C. Poland - the host of the climate negotiations this year - is unfortunately not known for its willingness to push for reducing carbon emission in Europe. Over the last few years its government has preferred to support the dirty energy lobbies rather than push Europe to make the energy transition that is so needed.
But leaders from Europe and beyond simply cannot continue to ignore the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. Policy-makers must show strong political will and do their utmost to reach an ambitious global climate deal in 2015. The fact that scientists are now almost fully certain that human activities are responsible for global warming also means that we can change the tide. It is possible to change our human activities and thereby reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. In Europe we have a target to reduce greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, compared to the emissions in 1990. We can, and must, take the lead and be more ambitious.
The primary cause of global warming is burning fossil fuels: hence only a small part of the known fossil fuel resources can be burned if we want to prevent dangerous climate change. The sooner we move to put a halt to carbon pollution by switching to clean, renewable energy and to more sustainable practices in all sectors (agriculture, transport, manufacturing, etc.) the more likely it is that we will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So let's do it!