The U.N. panel charged with a five-year mission to assess global climate change and provide a necessary course of action in order to stem its negative effects finally released a Synthesis Report detailing their findings in stark black-and-white. The news was all pretty doom and gloom.
"Human influence on the climate system is clear," says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems." By 2100, IPCC has "high confidence" that high temperature and humidity will completely compromise farming and even the ability to work outdoors in certain areas. Ocean acidification will continue to wreck havoc on marine life, and even if we abandoned fossil fuels tomorrow, these warming effects would still affect the planet for centuries.
The Synthesis Report is the final piece of IPCC's fifth assessment of climate change and combines all the knowledge gathered from the group's recent studies looking at the cause, impact, and possible solutions to our slowly warming world. The document itself serves as a 116-page compendium of how energy consumption is altering the planet.
In many ways, this five-year mission has come to many of the same conclusions discussed in the fourth assessment in 2007, only this time the authors are much more forthright about the necessity of a worldwide solution. Despite this very intense and depressing report, The Guardian notes that reports like these often "err on the side of understatement," meaning what's actually happening is probably even more alarming that what's being reported.
Of course, fossil fuels are the dastardly villain in this dystopian climate change tale, contributing to 78 per cent of total greenhouse gasses from 1970 to 2010. The IPCC panel sets a deadline that fossil fuel should be "phased out by 2100," or at the very least, no systems should be in place that don't use carbon capture and storage, a method of snatching waste carbon and depositing it underground.
The 40-page condensed version, a no-bullshit breakdown of the seriousness of these issues, was created for policymakers six weeks before a climate meeting in Peru that will set the stage for the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. That meeting, almost a year away, has the explicit goal to create legal and universal agreement on what needs to be done to help curb damage caused by our warming world.
This specific focus on the political challenges in the IPCC report signifies that the climate change debate has shifted stages. This is no longer a scientific question. The Synthesis Report lays out clearly what is happening and what needs to happen. Scientists now pass the baton to politicians to figure out how we'll be able to reach these alternative energy goals.
You can read the full report, and all its dismaying details, on IPCC's website.
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