The world’s leading climate scientists have unveiled the first part of a major report, which says that the evidence for manmade climate change is stronger than ever and that despite a pause in warming, temperatures could still rise above 2C by 2100.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group 1’s report confirmed that there is unequivocal evidence that most areas of the planet are warming and that human activity – particularly the emission of greenhouse gases – is the main cause.
“Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased”, said Qin Dahe, co-chair of the working group.
Scientists have also said that temperatures are likely to rise more than 1.5C in even the most optimistic scenarios. At the most pessimistic, global temperatures could exceed 2C warming, which is the threshold above which climate change could seriously alter the world’s environment.
“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”, second co-chair Thomas Stocker added.
Commenting on the report, UK energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said, “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.
“Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions this warming will continue, with potentially dangerous impacts upon our societies and economy.”
He added, “This strengthens the case for international leaders to work for an ambitious, legally binding global agreement in 2015 to cut carbon emissions.”
The IPCC has received criticism by climate change deniers, who argue that the warming has stalled since 1998 and therefore models and findings are inaccurate. However, climate scientists explained that the stall in the global warming process has been partly due to a cooling of tropical waters in the Pacific, caused by natural climate cycles. They warned that once the process reverts, the warming trend would continue.
Environmental groups are unsurprised by the findings and hope they encourage global leaders to take action. Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative, said, “There are few surprises in this report but the increase in the confidence around many observations just validates what we are seeing happening around us.”
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said, “Tough action is urgently needed to end the planet’s dangerous fossil fuel fixation and to develop the huge job-creating potential of renewable power – with developed nations like Britain taking the lead.”
According to a UK poll, the percentage of people believing that human activity is the main cause of global warming has fallen from 55% in 2008 to 39% in 2013, with 28% thinking there has been no warming, compared to the 7% in 2008.