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Global warming: New IPCC climate report warns of ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts’

Bg cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to avert disaster

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Staff Report

FRISCO— It’s becoming more clear that global warming is an existential issue for humanity, threatening to unravel the ecosystems that sustain us.

Without quick and big cuts in greenhouse gases, climate change “will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report, release Nov. 2, 2014. To prevent warming beyond the 2 degree Celsius target, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 40 to 70 percent globally by 2050, and to zero by 2100.

“We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands,” IPCC chair R. K. Pachauri, said in a prepared statement.

Along with cutting heat-trapping pollution, an aggressive mitigation strategy can help keep climate change impacts in a manageable range, the panel concluded. The Synthesis Report distils and integrates the findings of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report produced by over 800 scientists and released over the past 13 months.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” Pachauri said. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

The Synthesis Report confirms that climate change can be observed around the world, and that warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report expresses with greater certainty than in previous assessments the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic drivers have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.

The impacts of climate change have already been felt in recent decades on all continents and across the oceans. The more human activity disrupts the climate, the greater the risks. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society and the natural world, the report finds.

The Synthesis Report makes a clear case that many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change.

“Many of those most vulnerable to climate change have contributed and contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions,” Pachauri said. “Addressing climate change will not be possible if individual agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved through cooperative responses, including international cooperation.”

“Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II. “Adaptation is so important because it can be integrated with the pursuit of development, and can help prepare for the risks to which we are already committed by past emissions and existing infrastructure.”

But adaptation alone is not enough. Substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are at the core of limiting the risks of climate change. And since mitigation reduces the rate as well as the magnitude of warming, it also increases the time available for adaptation to a particular level of climate change, potentially by several decades.

“It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. “But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change.”

These economic estimates of mitigation costs do not account for the benefits of reduced climate change, nor do they account for the numerous co-benefits associated with human health, livelihoods, and development.

“The scientific case for prioritizing action on climate change is clearer than ever,” Pachauri said. “We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2 degrees Celsius of warming closes.

 

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Study says odds are sea level will rise 3 feet by 2100

Denmark-based research team seeks to pinpoint ice sheet melt factor

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Large parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast could be swamped by rising seas.

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Coastal tidal flooding is already causing transportation problems near Venice, Louisiana, USA. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Developing accurate projections for sea level rise has been an elusive, high-priority goal for climate scientists. It’s certain that sea level will keep rising for centuries to come. But it’s not clear at what rate and pace that will happen, especially during the next few decades as coastal communities try to prepare.

Some factors, like thermal ocean expansion, can be established with some accuracy but researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to warming.

In the latest number-crunching, scientists with the Niels Bohr Institute established that there’s little chance sea level will rise more than 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) by 2100. The results are published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. Continue reading

Climate: Study sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice expansion

Growth in sea ice may be slower than reported

The water in the Antarctic Sound can be smooth as glass, and sometimes look thick and oily, probably because it's so cold. Click on the photo to learn about some of the environmental issues in Antarctica.

Scientists are puzzling over the expansion of Antarctic sea ice. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming deniers have long been using the observed expansion of Antarctic sea ice as a way to try and confuse the public about the reality of global warming, but some new research by scientists with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego suggests the rate of expansion is not as dramatic as reported.

The findings, published in The Cryosphere (European Geosciences Union) acknowledge that there has been some expansion recently, but that some of the reported ice gain may be due to inconsistencies in computer models used to measure Antarctic sea ice. Continue reading

Climate: ‘We need to move away from business as usual’

Curbing global warming will require big cuts in greenhouse gases

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March 2014 temperatures were above average across most of the globe.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb despite international attempts to curb heat-trapping gases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest climate report.

Issued Sunday in Berlin, the report shows that greenhouse gas emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. Only with significant institutional, social and technological changes will humankind be able to meet its stated target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, the scientists wrote. Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

Global warming: New maps show temperature and precipitation projections down to the county level

How warm will your town be at the end of the century?

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November 2013 was the warmest on record for Planet Earth.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The jury may still be out on exactly how hot the Earth will be by the end of the century, but as climate models improve, scientists are narrowing the range.

In a recent effort to show changes on a regional scale, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Oregon State University created a set of maps and summaries of historical and projected temperature and precipitation changes for the 21st century, down to a county level. Find your local global warming forecast here.

The maps and summaries are based on NASA downscaling of the 33 climate models used in the fifth annual Climate Model Intercomparison Project and the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report. The resulting NASA dataset is on an 800-meter grid with national coverage.  Continue reading

Report: IPCC sea level rise projection may be too low

Many experts think seas could rise 2 meters by 2100

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Sea level rise is already inundating parts of the Mississippi Delta. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keeping sea level rise below 1 meter will require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a team of German and American researchers said this week after compiling the best available and most recent science.

Even with big cuts, sea level is expected to rise 40-60 centimeters by 2100 and 60-100 centimeters by 2300, according to the survey.

“While the results for the scenario with climate mitigation suggest a good chance of limiting future sea-level rise to one meter, the high emissions scenario would threaten the survival of some coastal cities and low-lying islands,” said Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Continue reading

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