The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an intergovernmental panel which advises governments on climate change, has just released its Fifth Assessment Report, which has been creating a buzz in the media, and all for good reason.
The new report states that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that many of the observed changes are unprecedented. It also states that the authors are 95% to 100% confident that this is induced by human greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics, of course, will focus on the remaining 5% and the fact that the temperature increase has been slower in the past 15 years. The IPCC, however, is very clear on the fact that this does not hint at a general weakening of global climate change, but in fact is due to natural and internal cycles within the climate systems (intensified uptake of heat in the lower levels of the oceans, lower sun cycle or volcanic eruptions).
There were twice as many climate models involved in this scientific report compared to the last one. The scientific scenarios and models are telling us that if we go on with business as usual, we will pass the 2ºC threshold by the end of the century and might even and up with a temperature increase of 5.4ºC above pre-industrial levels.
The clear cut trend is about the need to accelerate climate change action, and there is no way one can ignore the 95%-100% certainty. If one were to compare it with the medical sector, it would be blatant malpractice not to act.
In the face of the economic and fiscal crisis in the last years, it is important to show that there are lots of smart investment opportunities that include climate resilience. Other positive examples are the recent denouncement by US President Barack Obama of coal-fired power plants and the next five-year plan in China, which highlights the importance of securing health, ensuring job growth and protecting the climate.
Climate change action is not a job killer. It is not against the development of the poor. It is not against economic success. It’s just the opposite – we have seen that environment-based and climate-based industries grow by about 12% per annum while other industries are seeing sluggish growth.
There has never been a clearer case for us to act on climate change. Let us listen to what this IPCC report is telling us.
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Author: Karsten Sach is the Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation, Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany.
Image: The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy retrieves supplies dropped by parachute from a C-130 in the Arctic Ocean in this July 12, 2011 NASA handout.