IPCC climate change report: Key points & reaction

After a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials, the most important assessment of global warming to date has been published. Here's a quick round-up of the key points.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) yesterday (2 November) publishd its Synthesis Report – the work of thousands of scientists which has been agreed after negotiations with the world’s governnments. 

— Fossil fuels ‘must be phased out by 2100’ to limit climate change —

It comes at a critical time for international action on climate change, with the deadline for a global deal in Paris just over a year away. So, here’s a list of the key points, complete with a Storify as events unfolded in Copenhagen and a round-up of industry reaction.

IPCC Report: Key points

– Limiting the impacts of climate change will involve phasing out fossil fuels by 2100 and growing the use of renewables from its current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050.

– Warming of the climate system is “unequivocal”, and the human influence on changing it is now “clear”.

– The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years in the Northern Hemisphere.

– Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years”.

– Delaying action will “substantially increase the challenges” to limit global warming below two degrees, relative to pre-industrial levels.

– If temperatures were to rise above four degrees, risks include “substantial species extinction” as well as global and regional food insecurity.

– Emissions can be “substantially reduced” through changes in consumption patterns and adoption of energy savings measures.

IPCC Report: As it happened

IPCC Report: Industry reaction

Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics, Greenpeace

“For scientists, there is nothing vague about how to deal with climate change. Governments need to pay attention and phase out coal and oil now or end up doing it later at a much higher cost. However, those who seize the potential of renewable energy will leap ahead to a sustainable future.”

Asad Rehman, international climate campaigner, Friends of the Earth

“Politicians can’t say they weren’t warned – climate change poses a catastrophic threat to our food, livelihoods and homes. David Cameron and EU Governments still haven’t woken up to the threat we face – their recent decision to do little to cut emissions until 2030 puts the interests of big polluters ahead of people and the planet.

“If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, governments must stop dithering and take bold action to slash our carbon emissions by at least 80% in the next 15 years. That means saying no to any new dirty energy sources, including fracking.”

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP 

“As the language from the scientists gets more urgent, so our response must get more decisive. We need to see momentum building for a big financial shift from dirty to clean investments, and this means public investors being far more pro-active about which industries they back with their millions.

“The Scottish Government has expressed openness to the idea of using their pension funds to back a greener future, but I want to hear from Ministers this week how they plan to make this a top priority for action.”

Richard Black, director, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

“The IPCC pulls few punches in laying out what we can expect from unconstrained climate change, and it’s not a pretty picture.

“But it also shows how climate risks can be constrained and societies made more secure, through an integrated combination of measures to prepare for those climate impacts that are now inevitable, and rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to prevent potentially irreversible impacts in the future.

“In a nutshell, it indicates that our generation doesn’t have to bequeath major risks to future generations; those risks are avoidable, with costs entirely manageable if governments choose to act in concert.”

Jennifer Morgan, director of climate and energy programs, World Resources Institute

“As momentum for global action builds, this report reminds us that the impacts of climate change are dangerous and far-reaching. No one reading this report can doubt the reality of climate change. Unless we sharply reduce carbon pollution, the toll on our economies and people’s well-being will be far more than we can bear.

“The good news is that solutions are well understood. A growing body of evidence finds that action on climate change can go hand-in-hand with policies that will strengthen our economies.

“The synthesis report should bring a deep sense of purpose to the climate talks in Lima. Negotiators need to lay the groundwork for a strong and universal climate agreement to be finalized in Paris next year.”

Bertrand van Ee, CEO of Climate-KIC

“The impacts are going to be greatest in our cities and urban areas, where three quarters of Europeans live. Don’t forget, the IPCC makes it very clear that some of Europe’s most historic and beautiful cities are going to suffer from pollution, flooding, and food and water shortages.

“Because these impacts are going to be specific to each living environment, a coordinated response is now essential – however difficult to achieve. The EU’s recent agreement to cut carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, is part of the solution – but what’s needed now is concerted collective action.”

View an executive summary of the IPCC report here

Luke Nicholls

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