According to the recent synthesis report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, our planet is in deep trouble.
The Panel’s assessment states that most of the negative impact done to our environment because of climate change is man-made and primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The evidence is clear, growing, and observable on every continent and throughout the ocean.
Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are unprecedented in the last 800,000 years. Because of this build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, each of the past three decades has been warmer than the one preceding it, and this heat is acidifying the ocean; melting glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets around the world; and causing sea levels to rise at never-seen-before rates. Severe weather events such as major storms, droughts and temperature extremes are becoming more common.
These changes pose severe, widespread and potentially irreversible risks to communities and livelihoods of the approximately 100 million people who live no more than one meter above sea level, as they are among the most vulnerable.
The report states that there is a real risk of irreversible impacts, but it also stresses that we can stem the worst effects from climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions between 40 and 70 percent by 2050, and by eliminating them altogether by 2100. This means phasing out coal and natural gas for production of electricity, or coming up with a way to trap carbon dioxide emissions.
“This report is another canary in the coal mine,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We can't prevent a large scale disaster if we don't heed this kind of hard science. The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow and grow. 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,” he said.
We have a small window of opportunity to address the problem before it becomes too widespread and too expensive to fix. This is a matter of the quality of life on earth for generations to come. With this assessment, hundreds of scientists have spoken. Now it is up to the politicians to make some very hard decisions.