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UN Climate Report Underscores Necessity of Swift Carbon Cuts


November 4, 2014
Al Jazeera America & Karl Ritter / Associated Press & Bill DiBenedetto / TriplePundit

Climate change is happening, it's almost entirely man's fault and limiting its impacts will require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report published Sunday. "Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned. The world has until 2100 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero or face 'irreversible' consequences.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/2/ipcc-climate-changereport.html

UN Climate Report Underscores Necessity of Swift Carbon Cuts
Al Jazeera America

(November 2, 2014) -- Climate change is happening, it's almost entirely man's fault and limiting its impacts will require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report published Sunday.

"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the report's launch in Copenhagen.

The report is meant to serve as a scientific roadmap for UN climate negotiations, which continue next month in Lima, Peru. The meeting will be the last major conference on the issue before a 2015 summit in Paris, where a global agreement on climate action is supposed to be adopted.

Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs, but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit the risk of irreversible damage, the UN report said.

The biggest hurdle is deciding who should do what, with developed countries calling on China and other major developing countries to take on ambitious targets, and developing countries saying the already developed have a historical responsibility to lead the fight against global warming and to help poorer nations cope with its impacts.

The IPCC carefully avoided taking sides on the issue, saying the risks of climate change "are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development."

The report, which was the fourth and final installment in the IPCC's climate assessment, summed up 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists who concluded that global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and raising sea levels.

Failure to reduce greenhouse gas output, produced by the burning of fossil fuels, to zero this century might lock the world on a trajectory with "irreversible" impacts on people and the environment, the report said.

Amid its grim projections, the report also offered hope, saying the tools needed to set the world on a low-emissions path – such as solar and wind energy generators – already exist.

"We have the means to limit climate change," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said. "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."

US Secretary of State John Kerry called the report "another canary in the coalmine."

"The bottom line is that our planet is warming due to human actions, the damage is already visible, and the challenge requires ambitious, decisive and immediate action," Kerry said in a statement. "Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids."

Pointing to solutions, the IPCC said the costs associated with mitigation action, such as shifting energy systems to solar and wind power and other renewable sources, would reduce economic growth only by 0.06 percent annually.

Pachauri of the IPCC said that cost should be measured against the implications of doing nothing, putting "all species that live on this planet" at peril.

Al Jazeera and wire services



UN Climate Report Offers Stark Warnings, Hope
Karl Ritter / Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (November 2, 2014) -- Climate change is happening, it's almost entirely man's fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the UN's panel on climate science said Sunday.

The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's giant climate assessment offered no surprises, nor was it expected to since it combined the findings of three reports released in the past 13 months.

But it underlined the scope of the climate challenge in stark terms. Emissions, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, may need to drop to zero by the end of this century for the world to have a decent chance of keeping the temperature rise below a level that many consider dangerous.

The IPCC did not say exactly what such a world would look like but it would likely require a massive shift to renewable sources to power homes, cars and industries combined with new technologies to suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The report warned that failure to reduce emissions could lock the world on a trajectory with "irreversible" impacts on people and the environment. Some impacts already being observed included rising sea levels, a warmer and more acidic ocean, melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice and more frequent and intense heat waves.

"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the report's launch in Copenhagen.

Amid its grim projections, the report said the tools are there to set the world on a low-emissions path and break the addiction to burning oil, coal and gas which pollute the atmosphere with heat-trapping CO2, the chief greenhouse gas.

"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," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said.

The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess global warming and its impacts. The report released Sunday caps its latest assessment, a mega-review of 30,000 climate change studies that establishes with 95-percent certainty that most of the warming seen since the 1950s is man-made. The IPCC's best estimate is that just about all of it is man-made, but it can't say that with the same degree of certainty.

Today only a small minority of scientists challenge the mainstream conclusion that climate change is linked to human activity.

Global Climate Change, a NASA website, says 97 percent of climate scientists agree that warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.

The American public isn't as convinced. A year-old survey by Pew Research showed 67 percent of Americans believed global warming is occurring and 44 percent said the earth is warming mostly because of human activity. More recently, a New York Times poll said 42 percent of Republicans say global warming won't have a serious impact, a view held by 12 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents.

Sleep-deprived delegates approved the final documents Saturday after a weeklong line-by-line review that underscored that the IPCC process is not just about science. The reports must be approved both by scientists and governments, which means political issues from UN climate negotiations, which are nearing a 2015 deadline for a global agreement, inevitably affect the outcome.

The rift between developed and developing countries in the UN talks opened up in Copenhagen over a passage on what levels of warming could be considered dangerous. After a protracted battle, the text was dropped from a key summary for policy-makers -- to the disappointment of some scientists.

"If the governments are going to expect the IPCC to do their job," said Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer, a lead author of the IPCC's second report, they shouldn't "get caught up in fights that have nothing to do with the IPCC."

The omission meant the word "dangerous" disappeared from the summary altogether. It appeared only twice in a longer underlying report compared to seven times in a draft produced before the Copenhagen session. The less loaded word "risk" was mentioned 65 times in the final 40-page summary.

"Rising rates and magnitudes of warming and other changes in the climate system, accompanied by ocean acidification, increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible detrimental impacts," the report said.

World governments in 2009 set a goal of keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) compared to before the industrial revolution. Temperatures have gone up about 0.8 C (1.4 F) since the 19th century.

Emissions have risen so fast in recent years that the world has used up two-thirds of its carbon budget, the maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted to have a likely chance of avoiding 2 degrees of warming, the IPCC report said.

"This report makes it clear that if you are serious about the 2-degree goal ... there is nowhere to hide," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. "You can't wait several decades to address this issue."

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the report demands "ambitious, decisive and immediate action."

"Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids," Kerry said in a statement.

The IPCC said the cost of actions such as shifting to solar and wind power and other renewable sources and improving energy efficiency would reduce economic growth only by 0.06 percent annually.

Pachauri said that should be measured against the implications of doing nothing, putting "all species that live on this planet" at peril.

The report is meant as a scientific roadmap for the UN climate negotiations, which continue next month in Lima, Peru. That's the last major conference before a summit in Paris next year, where a global agreement on climate action is supposed to be adopted.

The biggest hurdle is deciding who should do what. Rich countries are calling on China and other major developing countries to set ambitious targets; developing countries saying the rich have a historical responsibility to lead the fight against warming and to help poorer nations cope with its impacts. The IPCC avoided taking sides, saying the risks of climate change "are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development."

Karl Ritter can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/karl_ritter
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



Climate Change: Ready for a New Era of Extreme Weather?
Bill DiBenedetto / TriplePundit

(October 27, 2014) -- A large part of the response to climate change amounts to holding actions to mitigate the impact of fossil fuel emissions and to better prepare for unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods.

Is enough being done on the latter point -- preparedness for extreme weather? The answer is no, according to a 76-page report released this month by the National Wildlife Federation, Allied World Assurance Company Holdings and Earth Economics. In fact, the organizations say, there's a major "preparedness deficit."

The study, Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America's Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather, examines the growing risks from potentially-catastrophic natural hazards; the policy solutions that can safeguard people, property and wildlife habitats; and local case studies that can point the way forward.

"Our preparedness deficit is the result of years of inaction and under-investment at the federal, state and local levels," says Collin O'Mara, NWF president and CEO. "It's time for our elected officials to reinvest in our natural defenses and this report offers a blueprint for bipartisan, market-based solutions."

The report reads: "Far too many people who live along America's coasts and rivers are at considerable risk of personal harm from floods and hurricanes, and their properties and economic livelihoods are highly vulnerable as well. Efforts by policy makers to grapple with and respond to these problems have been inadequate."

Climate impacts are hitting home faster than governments are adapting, the report's authors say. "But it's not too late to protect our communities with cost-effective, nature-based approaches for risk reduction," But -- and there are always many buts when it comes to reacting to and dealing with climate change -- what's needed are major increases in "investments in proactive risk reduction measures" on the scale of a "Marshall Plan," that will take into consideration the growing risks from more intense storms, flooding and sea level rise.

Two years ago Superstorm Sandy, a storm climate scientists say was worsened by global warming, slammed into the East Coast. It killed 72 Americans, touched 24 states, knocked out power to more than 7 million people and caused an estimated $70 billion in damage. In 2014, the US has just come off the hottest six-month stretch on record globally, and America saw the ninth wettest summer on record:

* Torrential downpours in the Northeast dumped a summer's worth of rain in just a matter of hours, while parts of the Midwest received two months of rainfall in one week.

* Montana had its wettest August on record with 276 percent of its average precipitation. * Even in the midst of historic drought, California has experienced record thunderstorms and deadly flash floods.

The report's authors say solutions are at hand: "Policymakers can make coastal and riverine communities safer and more resilient to floods and hurricanes by focusing on natural and nature-based approaches for risk reduction. These approaches protect and restore natural infrastructure such as wetlands, dunes, riparian zones, living shorelines, and natural open space.

They are cost-effective and produce a host of benefits to residents in addition to flood protection, including clean water, habitat for fish and wildlife, and increased opportunities for recreation and tourism. They also produce savings for taxpayers nationwide."

The authors note that improvements in seven areas of federal and state law are needed:

1. Phase out subsidies for federal flood insurance to reduce incentives for development in high-risk and environmentally-sensitive areas while taking care to address social equity impacts.

2. Prioritize federal investments on the front end of disasters, potentially reducing billions in disaster relief after storms and floods.

3. Further reduce and eliminate federal subsidies that lead to more development on barrier islands.

4. Ensure better protection of wetlands, intermittent streams, and other water bodies that can absorb floodwaters, act as speed bumps for storm surge, and buffer communities.

5. Refocus Army Corps of Engineers on restoration projects that work with nature to reduce flood risk rather than on multi-billion dollar civil works construction projects.

6. Ensure that state-sponsored insurance programs are designed in ways that discourage development in hazard-prone areas while protecting socially-vulnerable communities.

7. Take urgent action to reduce carbon pollution that's worsening extreme weather.

Those are logical and needed steps as the nation must cope with a "new normal" of extreme weather conditions. And a Marshall Plan approach is desperately needed.

Here's the thing however: The Marshall Plan was the American initiative to aid Europe after World War II, in which the United States gave $17 billion -- or the equivalent of about $160 billion in current dollars -- in economic support to help rebuild European economies over four years beginning in April 1948. What are the odds that the US will spend on that scale over the coming decades?

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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