New IPCC report – authoritative warning on climate change

More than 800 scientists contributed to the IPCC report, which cites more than 9200 scientific reports and has been peer reviewed by hundreds of experts

This week in Stockholm, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will finalize and approve the first part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. (Stop yawning and wake up at the back!)

The new report deals with the physical science basis of climate change and it shows how scientific evidence has strengthened year by year, leaving fewer uncertainties about the serious consequences of inaction on climate change. (This is important).

The Summary for Policymakers, to be released this Friday, is likely a good read if you are interested in climate science. It presents the latest findings in the clearest possible way, while not compromising on scientific accuracy. But why does it matter – aren’t climate talks and reports synonymous with inaction and stalled progress?

Yes and no.  Previous talks have not resulted in the ‘big bang’ global agreement, but they did result in some important reduction efforts – and importantly for ABB – some of the solutions to climate change are at the heart of our business.

More than 800 scientists have contributed to the IPCC report, which cites more than 9200 scientific reports and has been peer reviewed by hundreds of experts. It makes it the most authoritative source on climate change and it will guide governments in setting new climate polices.

Some draft results have already been described in the media: Increasing sea levels, ice-melting in the Arctic, less snow coverage and less predictable weather patterns are with greater certainty attributed to human activities, in particular to our still growing burning of fossil fuels.

In the past 250 years, mankind has released 500 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere and on current trends we’ll burn the next 500 billion tonnes in less than 40 years. That’s quite a hockey stick on the graph and hockey sticks should always warrant some detailed attention.

Most measures to tackle climate change focus on curbing the burning of fossil fuels, for example, through energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.

The International Energy Agency urges governments to adopt four specific energy policies to cut energy-related emissions in a cost-efficient way. These policies rely on existing technologies and have been implemented successfully in several countries:

  • Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport
  • Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants
  • Actions to halve methane releases into the atmosphere from the upstream oil and gas industry
  • Partial phase-out of fossil fuel consumption subsidies

According to IEA, the energy efficiency measures alone would account for nearly half of the emissions reductions in 2020. And you can see that some of the other measures hold opportunities for ABB.

In recent years there have been signs of ‘climate fatigue’ among the public, in that we hear so much ‘debate about the climate debate’ and whether the scientists have got a grip on the cause of climate change.  This can translate into a feeling of doom and gloom in that it seems there is nothing an individual or company should contribute to a solution to this mega issue upon which there is still debate.  So we don’t try. A challenge for the new IPCC report will be to revive interest and engagement for firm action and encourage those who can make a different to continue to strive to do just that.

The climate challenge is complex in being urgent and long-term at the same time. While the scientific evidence for global warming is increasingly strong, there is no quick way to phase out fossil fuels, it will take decades, but the direction must be set now.

(Thanks to my expert colleagues Anders Nordstrom and Adrienne Williams for their considerable input to this blog).

Image credit: neil k. under a CC license via Flickr

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About the author

Adam Roscoe

I am the Head of Sustainability Affairs at ABB. In a previous life I trained as a journalist and worked as one for eight years. My interests outside work include cycling, cooking, current affairs, history, Daft Punk and writing.
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