News comment: The heat is on
Joe Ware reports the latest figures on climate change and hears from the people behind the stats
The latest report on the state of the world’s changing climate was published last month; the world’s leading scientists are now even more convinced that humans are the driving force behind climate change.
The snappily titled Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consisting of more than 800 scientists from around the world, concluded they are 95% certain that humans are causing climate change – the level of confidence usually accepted as scientific certainty.
The report revealed that climate change has affected every region of the globe, on land and at sea, and that continued carbon emissions will drive further sea level rise, heat waves, melting ice and extreme weather. On our present course, the IPCC says that sea levels could rise by up to 98cm by the end of the century and possibly much higher if the Antarctic ice sheet becomes unstable, threatening coastal regions. Despite UN countries agreeing in 2009 not to allow temperatures to rise by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels (we’re currently at 0.8°C), current pledges from countries to cut carbon emissions are not high enough to achieve this goal. Climate scientists predict the average temperature between 2080 and 2100 could be between 3.4°C and 5.6°C higher if emissions remain unchecked, much higher than the two degree threshold. Most of this warming would happen in tropical and sub-tropical areas where already many of the world’s poorest people live.
The apparent recent “pause” in global warming was also addressed. In the past 15 years, air surface temperatures have still risen but at a slower rate, something climate change deniers have jumped on to argue there is no need to take action. But the IPCC scientists rejected this and said the planet was still warming but that the world’s oceans have absorbed more of the heat. The report shows that the last 30 years were the warmest since 600AD. …
Joe Ware is Christian Aid’s church and campaigns journalist
This is an extract from the November 2013 edition of Reform.