Scientists sound the alarm in climate change report – from the Los Angeles Times

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By Neela Banerjee

Climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels is already affecting life on every continent and in the oceans, and the window is closing rapidly for governments to avert the worst damage expected to occur later this century, scientists warned in one of the loudest alarms yet sounded by the international scientific community.

The report, (issued Sunday November 2), arrives as international negotiators prepare to meet in Lima, Peru, in December to establish parameters for an eventual agreement on cutting heat-trapping emissions, a goal that has eluded the international community since talks began more than 20 years ago on the necessity of action. Negotiators are aiming to sign a deal in Paris in December 2015.

Written by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which regularly reviews and synthesizes the latest climate research, the report says there are more heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere than at any time in at least the last 800,000 years, and that most of them came from the combustion of fossil fuels since the advent of widespread industrialization in the late 1800s. The effects of global warming are already being felt in rising sea levels, ocean acidification and more extreme weather events, especially heat waves and droughts, which have begun to affect crop yields and water availability.

The steps taken so far by countries to reduce or mitigate emissions are not enough, the scientists said, and under the business-as-usual scenario, the world runs the risk of consequences so grave that they are irreversible and cannot be adapted to.

“Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” the report says.

The IPCC assessment is one of the bluntest to date after years of reports that have warned the global community about climate change. Actions by the world’s governments over the next year will reveal whether the science has ignited meaningful action on cutting emissions. In crafting the report, a key summary of findings that would have made it easier to understand was cut because the governments that sign off on the document could not agree on what should be included. That raises questions about whether they can agree on something much more complex, such as reductions in pollution.

“This is the strongest statement yet of the risks of climate change and the steps we need to take,” said Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. “But at what point does the stridency of the report affect policymaking, so that we take steps commensurate with the risks? Will it change the debate in Peru and in Paris?”

In the United States, proponents of cutting heat-trapping emissions welcomed the forceful report.

“We can’t prevent a large-scale disaster if we don’t heed this kind of hard science,” said Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow and grow.”

Two weeks ago, the State Department’s top climate envoy, Todd Stern, said the U.S. was considering a proposal to combat climate change that would require countries to offer plans for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions on a certain schedule but would leave it to individual nations to determine how deep their cuts would be.

Earlier approaches taken by the international community to mandate certain levels of emission cuts got little buy-in from large polluters such as the United States and China. But some countries fear that with the approach the U.S. now backs, countries will not make the kinds of reductions needed to keep the average global temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees on the Celsius scale, or 3.6 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale, from pre-industrial levels. The 2-degrees-Celsius threshold is the point beyond which scientists estimate certain catastrophic, irreversible changes would occur.

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3 Responses to Scientists sound the alarm in climate change report – from the Los Angeles Times

  1. SMS says:

    Here is what I think: it does not matter what I think! Scientists have been yelling and pleading over this for 20+ years and few politicians listen. Worse, many just dismiss it as “alarmist”, “bad science”, or worse “delusional environmental types …”; take your pick. Now that it is crunch time, I see no hope in the future for planet Earth. In the US, it is not just bad science; poor science understanding, or just plain ignorance that has us sunk: it is a citizenry that does not have the backbone to elect and push our representatives to do the right thing in the face of “business as usual” and “NIMBY” attitudes.

    We will reap what we sow, except with it warming up, we CAN’T sow to reap. In this case, we get what we deserve.

  2. Francis Vessigault says:

    I am in favor of keeping an eye on climate change. But let us be smart. No human being can change the climate on Earth as volcanic activity, solar flares and cosmic radiation influence the climate on Earth. As I am talking right now, 700 million tons on hydrogen atoms are converted into 695 million tons of helium inside the Sun’s core of 28 million Fahrenheit. The missing 5 million tons is converted into deadly Gamma ray, X rays and harmful Ultraviolet rays and useful infrared and visible light. The nuclear White yellow Sun releases nuclear energy that influence the climate on earth. Humans can fight against pollution but contrary to the nonsense trashy talk of Al Gore who knows far less than Albert Einstein, politicians like Al Gore should get out of the way and learn from the geniuses of science, Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble, and above all from the almighty Sith Lord Darth Vader, Second in command of the Galactic Empire.

    • SMS says:

      You are correct, human beings can not change volcanic activity, solar flares and cosmic radiation that influence the climate on Earth; what we can change is our behavior and the attitude that it does not matter how I will live my life as I can do as I like. We make the mistake in believing that we are not contributing to the problem. We also make the mistake of jumping on to every proclamation that is uttered. The scientists who study climates are respected members in their fields and they make their claims based on the evidence that is present. I have watched a consistent presentation from these scientists and from what I have observed, they are on to something. Are they 100% correct? I do not know for certain, but there are visible changes all around us. Will changing our behavior correct what we are observing 100%? No, but it is a start. If you need examples of human change with positive results consider the following:

      Dust Bowl; farming practices before and after that ecological/environmental/social disaster. A series of small changes by the people left behind has resulted in no more lost soils on such a large magnitude.

      City Pollution levels: prior to the advent of the automobile, a city of any size had a sanitation problem with the horse manure/flies/polluted waters and just plain stench of the manure amounts, left the cities a grim place to dwell in in the summer. After the automobile came into modern society, that problem was reduced.

      City Pollution levels; prior to stricter car emission standards, the LA basin was not a place fit to breath in. After the standards had been in place for a few years, the coming of the Olympics to LA, and the voluntary reduction of smog emissions by the public for the athletes, the pollution levels dropped. Collectively, the LA citizens made a difference for the Olympics and the new standards made a difference for the duration. (It is not perfect, but it is improving.)

      Mining: prior to environmental laws to protect the land, mining industry was using mercury, sulfuric acids and other toxic chemicals in their activities and then dumped the wastes into streams/rivers and on the ground to later seep into the water supply of people who lived down stream. It was a cheap way to get rid of their waste by-products of mining. The newer laws make this illegal and it has started to present positive results in water toxicity levels reversing the toxicity levels present or by not getting worse, in some mining areas.

      I can add several other examples, but it is not necessary. Our behavior, good and bad, as well as our responses (addressing or ignoring) all impact our lives and our neighbors too. In my first comment, I was pleading for reasonable response and responsibility to the current issue and issues we face. I acknowledge that by changing my personal behavior, I can have a small impact in the area around me. What I can not do on my own is make the needed changes to impact a larger area. That is why we have elected officials to help direct, facilitate, and offer alternatives to help make a positive impact to ourselves and our neighbors.

      I do not believe anymore than you do that scientists and politicians can be the miracle “cure” for our problems, but by ignoring the problems or only going the way of the most profit at the expense of everything else, we delude ourselves of our civility; and that is when everyone pays.

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