“Warming of the climate is unequivocal.” This is one of the first statements in the recently released report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Fifth Assessment Report summarizes the scientific findings of thousands of the world’s climate scientists over the last 6 years, and the prognosis for the health of our climate system continues to be an alarming one. The report examines an accelerating path of several of the known effects of climate change. Sea level rise for instance—the rate of sea level rise over the last 40 years is shown to be double the rate from the last 100 years. A recently-found phenomenon is the accelerated melting of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. From 2002 to 2011 those large ice sheets were melting 5-6 times faster than in the previous decade.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to make a difference. Three actions you can take for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions include:
--Putting a price on carbon: Get involved with the local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. Learn more on the Green Community Connections Climate Action Resources page.
--Promoting deployment of clean energy sources: Find out about the latest statistics on wind energy in Illinois, please find the AWEA state fact sheet here and sign up today to become part of our Power of Wind advocacy network.
--Instituting stronger energy efficiency practices: Reduce your energy cost and make your home more comfortable by weatherizing your home! There are energy rebates available to help you make home improvements. Check out Energy Impact Illinois.
Continue reading for more information from the report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It is confirmed that with warming, extreme climate events will increase. Heat waves, for instance, will “very likely” become more frequent and be longer in duration. Extreme rain storms will also become more frequent and more intense.
Another unsettling finding is that without action to counter warming, the extent of surface permafrost in the northern areas of the world is projected to shrink by between 37% and 81%. This is not good news given that methane, which will be released from the thawing ground, is many times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than the more common CO2.
There is more certainty than ever (95-100%) that man’s activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) has caused all of the warming that is evident since 1950. A warning is repeated from the previous report, and the one before that, that we are on track to blow by what is thought to be the maximum “safe” warming of 2°C and reach a warming of 4°C (7°F) by the end of the century.
What humans have done to their climate will have long-lasting effects. As the report says, “Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.” Because of the cumulative effect of carbon in the atmosphere, the report indicates that we can afford to emit only a certain additional amount of CO2 in order to have better than a 50/50 chance of staying under a 2°C temperature increase. This translates to the need to keep at least 80% of the known coal, oil, and natural gas reserves in the ground.
Fortunately, there are ways to get out of this crisis. The Mitigation Report, due in April 2014, will discuss strategies for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. In the past, these solutions have centered on:
--Putting a price on carbon
--Promoting deployment of clean energy sources
--Instituting stronger energy efficiency practices
Submitted by Jim Babcock