On Friday the United Nations (UN) released its formal report on climate change, which reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was leaked last month.
It confirms that global warming is “unequivocal” and confirms there’s an extremely high 95 percent chance human-created pollution is the cause, although it doesn’t deny that natural occurrences are also factors.
Skeptics have been quick to claim that leaving 5 percent open for debate is cause to doubt the certainty of man-made climate change, but top scientists from varying specialties say they are as certain of climate change as they are that cigarettes kill.
In fact, Jeff Severinghaus, a geoscientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, claims the certainty is backed up by a 99 percent capture of human signatures on carbon in the air by using radioactive isotopes, but factoring in the role of nature brings the percentage down to 95.
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” says the report as quoted in The Hill. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
The 2013 report puts human involvement on a higher scale than the last IPCC report in 2007, which claimed humans were “very likely” the cause.
Over 800 scientists worldwide contributed to the 2013 UN report that was peer-reviewed by almost a thousand more and they conclude human activity is the main driver involved in climate change for the last six decades. The report predicts that stronger weather will continue to increase and reversal will depend on human action.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the UN report with this statement:
“Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire. Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.”
The report doesn’t come as a surprise to many UN officials, who have been pressing for climate talks to form a binding climate pact by 2015, with a goal of implementation five years later.
“You have used the world’s best science to address the world’s biggest challenge. This new report will be essential for governments as they work to finalize an ambitious legal agreement on climate change in 2015,” secretary general Ban Ki-moon said via video conference at an IPCC presser in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday.
Thomas Stocker, scientist and co-chair of an IPCC contributing group released this statement (in part):
“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. Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions.”
The report concluded that rich nations should contribute the most to reducing carbon pollution since they have been pumping greenhouses gases into the atmosphere the longest.
Last Friday, President Obama, who has been stifled from attempting big climate legislation by a Congress full of climate deniers, pushed to protect the environment and combat climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by releasing the agency’s modified draft rules to limit carbon emissions from new power plants, with rules for existing plants expected next summer.
But many scientists fear concentrations of carbon in the air have already reached the tipping point they have been warning about for years. The most alarming part may be the prediction that climate change could continue for a century even if every ounce of C02 were blocked from the atmosphere tomorrow.
The inevitable fact is droughts, floods, super-storms, rising sea levels, wildfires and melting glaciers may be here to stay unless drastic measures are taken on a global level to significantly cut carbon emissions.
The full 2,500 page report will be released on Monday, but a preliminary policy maker report can be seen here.