Today, Friday 27 September, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the first of three volumes of the fifth Assessment Report - the most comprehensive assessment of the science of climate change ever undertaken.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey conveyed the urgency of addressing the report’s latest findings and said:
The message of this report is clear - the Earth’s climate has warmed over the last century and man-made greenhouse gases have caused much of that global warming. The gases emitted now are accumulating in the atmosphere and so the solutions must be set in motion today. The risks and costs of doing nothing today are so great, only a deeply irresponsible government would be so negligent.
Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions this warming will continue, with potentially dangerous impacts upon our societies and economy. This strengthens the case for international leaders to work for an ambitious, legally binding global agreement in 2015 to cut carbon emissions.
This report is the most authoritative , credible analysis of climate change science ever. It represents a huge amount of work by over 250 unpaid scientific experts drawn from universities and research institutes in 39 different countries around the world. We owe them our gratitude because this report makes clear what is at stake if we don’t act.
Prof David MacKay FRS, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said:
“I’m not a climate scientist, but I often read the climate science literature and attend meetings where climate scientists discuss their work.
“The climate science community are doing excellent, open science: climate scientists are healthily critical of their own work, and well aware of the questions that have yet to be resolved.
“The climate system is astonishingly complex, and I admire the steady progress that climate scientists are making to improve our understanding of this remarkable, dynamic world in which humanity is sustained. The IPCC’s fifth assessment report has been produced by the generous work of hundreds of scientific experts drawn from universities and research institutes around the world. There is no equivalent of the IPCC in any other area of science.
“This latest report is the most authoritative and comprehensive report to date of our understanding of climate change. The scientific consensus is that the world has warmed and will warm more, owing to human activities. There is robust evidence that human greenhouse gas emissions are already changing our world; global temperatures have risen every decade for the last three decades, oceans are acidifying, rainfall patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, arctic sea ice is declining, and some extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.
“It is predicted, from simple physics, that the more humanity increases the quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the warmer the Earth will become. The far-reaching consequences of this warming are becoming understood, although some uncertainties remain. The most significant uncertainty, however, is how much carbon humanity will choose to put into the atmosphere in the future. It is the total sum of all our carbon emissions that will determine the impacts. We need to take action now, to maximise our chances of being faced with impacts that we, and our children, can deal with.
“One important message of this new report is that, while there remains some uncertainty about the precise sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on climate is largely determined by the cumulative total of humanity’s carbon emissions. This means that waiting a decade or two before taking climate change action will certainly lead to greater harm than acting now.”
Note for editors:
You can read more about the IPCC report in DECC’s “key points and questions” publication.
Highlights from the AR5 Summary
- Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe.
- Warming in the climate system is unequivocal.
- Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios
- Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.
IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): The Latest Assessment of Climate Science
The UK is committed to reducing its emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared to the 1990 baseline. These targets are enshrined in law: the Climate Change Act (2008), and the government’s performance against them is monitored by an independent Climate Change Committee. We are progressively decarbonising our energy sector, transport and economy and have introduced incentives to reduce domestic energy consumption. The proposed Energy Bill will enable low carbon technologies to compete in the electricity market and attract investment.
Internationally, we are working towards a binding global deal to reduce emissions at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in 2015. We agreed, as part of the EU, to enter the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and are pressing the EU to move to a 30% emissions reduction target by 2020 and 50% by 2030 in the context of a global comprehensive agreement on climate change. Alongside this, the UK is providing £3.87 billion through its International Climate Fund (ICF) to support developing countries, to demonstrate low carbon development, protect forests and to help the poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.