On Friday 27th September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its crucial report ‘AR5’ on the current state of climate change science. This includes new estimates for the scale of global warming and its impact on sea levels, glaciers and ice sheets. The report underlines with greater certainty than ever before that human activity is the main cause of rising global temperatures, with far-reaching consequences for each and every one of us.
The IPCC report is the key interface between science and policy-making, and its evidence will form the basis for virtually all climate change related strategies developed by government and business for several years to come.
Summary of report’s key findings
- The scientific evidence of global warming is now “unequivocal”.
- The panel is 95% certain that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.
- A pause which has been noted over the last 15 years does not alter the overall trend of warming.
- Since the 1950s the climate system has undergone changes “unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
- The atmosphere and the oceans have warmed – the majority of energy is being accumulated in the oceans, which accounts for a slow-down in global temperature rises.
- The amount of snow and ice has diminished.
- Global mean sea levels have risen.
- Greenhouse gases have increased.
- To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.
Response from Community Energy Plus CEO, Dr Tim Jones
“The IPCC report highlights the fact that climate change is largely the result of human behaviour, it affects each and every one of us, and that we need to take action now in order to address escalating global temperatures. In Cornwall, we are heading for colder winters and rising sea levels in our lifetimes; looking ahead to the lives of our grandchildren we will see dramatic changes to the kind of lifestyle which we value so highly here.
“Action must be taken urgently on a national level and filtered down to local councils and parishes. There is also a role for grassroots action, with individuals and communities working to make real and sustained changes to the way they use energy. We need to properly insulate our homes, especially given the nature of Cornwall’s housing stock, keeping us warmer in winter and reducing the amount of energy we use. We need a change in attitude to renewables – they are part of the solution and with proper management and community involvement, any negative impacts can be kept to a minimum. We must be prepared to make the difficult decisions; they may not always be popular but this report demonstrates the overwhelming necessity of a fundamental change in the way we think about our environment.”
About the report
The report has 209 lead authors, who draw on thousands of peer-reviewed studies in their evidence. AR5 is the most comprehensive IPCC report yet (they are published every six years). It represents a thorough appraisal of evidence on climate change indicators, which include arctic summer sea ice, glacial melt, sea level rises, ocean warming and CO2 concentration. Scientific and technological advances mean that more data than ever before has been considered. Progress includes increased computer power for crunching big data, improved satellite capability, advances in paleoclimate data (ice cores) and new data from 3,000 Argo floats which monitor the world’s oceans.
The possible impacts of AR5
AR5 is the final draft of all evidence drawn together by the world’s top meteorologists, physicists, ecologists, engineers, economists, oceanographers and statisticians. National governments will use the findings of AR5 to inform policies and strategies in relation to a wide-range of future planning. These include energy policy and carbon reduction schemes, the extractive industry, tourism, farming and fishing, military and security, health, urban planning and transport, manufacturing, banking and finance. Taking advantage of momentum in the light of the IPCC report, The UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon will invite world leaders to a summit in 2014 in a push to establish a new global pact on reducing emissions.