IPCC report says large cuts in CO2 emissions are vital, and need to be soon, to stop severe impacts of climate change
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has produced its Synthesis report, bringing together work from 3 earlier reports. It is unequivocal about the extent of the danger posed by climate change, and the imperative need to make huge cuts in global carbon emissions. The science is absolutely clear – politicians ignore it at their peril. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not taking action. The IPCC says climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless CO2 emissions are cut sharply and rapidly. They say climate disruptions will cause huge difficulties for humanity, including food shortages and violent conflicts. Inaction would be costly; the longer the delay, the higher the cost. Lord Stern said delaying cutting CO2 emissions would be “profoundly irrational”. Ed Davey said: “…we must act on climate change now.” But he backs building a 2nd Gatwick runway. With the extent of carbon cuts it is essential to make, how can the inevitable rise in UK aviation carbon emissions, caused by an additional intensely used runway, possibly be justified?
Rising aviation carbon emissions – and the cuts required globally
Apart from an IATA aspiration to cut global aviation CO2 emissions by 1.5% per year, up to 2020 (while growing the global industry by about 4 – 5% per year) the only way – other than a vague hope of future use of a tiny amount of “sustainable?” biofuels – the industry will only meet its theoretical target of “carbon neutral growth” by buying offsets for its carbon emissions.
That means aviation intends to continue increasing its total carbon emissions by maybe 3 – 4% per year, but justifying this by paying other sectors to do some actual, real, cuts in carbon.
However, the extent of the carbon cuts we need is great, (as evidenced by the IPCC report).
Can the world really afford to allow an ever-expanding aviation sector to swallow up the hard-won, difficult, carbon reductions achieved elsewhere?
IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change
Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable
By Damian Carrington (Guardian)
2 November 2014
Carbon emissions will have to fall to zero to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IPCC says.
Climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, according to the most important assessment of global warming yet published.
The stark report states that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts.
But it also found that ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable.
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attending what he described as the “historic” report launch. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” He said that quick, decisive action would build a better and sustainable future, while inaction would be costly.
Ban added a message to investors, such as pension fund managers: “Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”
The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling.
The report comes at a critical time for international action on climate change, with the deadline for a global deal just over a year away. In September, 120 national leaders met at the UN in New York to address climate change, while hundreds of thousands of marchers around the world demanded action.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change.”
Lord Nicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of an influential earlier study, said the new IPCC report was the “most important assessment of climate change ever prepared” and that it made plain that “further delays in tackling climate change would be dangerous and profoundly irrational”.
“The reality of climate change is undeniable, and cannot be simply wished away by politicians who lack the courage to confront the scientific evidence,” he said, adding that the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people were at risk.
Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, said: “This is the most comprehensive and robust assessment ever produced. It sends a clear message: we must act on climate change now. [But the man backs fracking, and a backs a new south east England runway at Gatwick, expanding aviation …]
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said: “This is another canary in the coal mine. We can’t prevent a large scale disaster if we don’t heed this kind of hard science.”
Bill McKibben, a high-profile climate campaigner with 350.org, said: “For scientists, conservative by nature, to use ‘serious, pervasive, and irreversible’ to describe the effects of climate falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola.” Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry would not be easy, McKibben said. “But, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.”
The new overarching IPCC report builds on previous reports on the science, impacts and solutions for climate change. It concludes that global warming is “unequivocal”, that humanity’s role in causing it is “clear” and that many effects will last for hundreds to thousands of years even if the planet’s rising temperature is halted.
In terms of impacts, such as heatwaves and extreme rain storms causing floods, the report concludes that the effects are already being felt: “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”
Droughts, coastal storm surges from the rising oceans and wildlife extinctions on land and in the seas will all worsen unless emissions are cut, the report states. This will have knock-on effects, according to the IPCC: “Climate change is projected to undermine food security.” The report also found the risk of wars could increase: “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
Two-thirds of all the emissions permissible if dangerous climate change is to be avoided have already been pumped into the atmosphere, the IPPC found.
The lowest cost route to stopping dangerous warming would be for emissions to peak by 2020 – an extremely challenging goal – and then fall to zero later this century.
The report calculates that to prevent dangerous climate change, investment in low-carbon electricity and energy efficiency will have to rise by several hundred billion dollars a year before 2030. But it also found that delaying significant emission cuts to 2030 puts up the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%, partly because dirty power stations would have to be closed early. “If you wait, you also have to do more difficult and expensive things,” said Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and an IPCC working group vice-chair.
Tackling climate change need only trim economic growth rates by a tiny fraction, the IPCC states, and may actually improve growth by providing other benefits, such as cutting health-damaging air pollution.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the nascent technology which aims to bury CO2 underground – is deemed extremely important by the IPPC. It estimates that the cost of the big emissions cuts required would more than double without CCS. Pachauri said: “With CCS it is entirely possible for fossil fuels to continue to be used on a large scale.”
The focus on CCS is not because the technology has advanced a great deal in recent years, said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and vice-chair of the IPCC, but because emissions have continued to increase so quickly. “We have emitted so much more, so we have to clean up more later”, he said.
Linking CCS to the burning of wood and other plant fuels would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels because the carbon they contain is sucked from the air as they grow. But van Ypersele said the IPCC report also states “very honestly and fairly” that there are risks to this approach, such as conflicts with food security.
In contrast to the importance the IPCC gives to CCS, abandoning nuclear power or deploying only limited wind or solar power increases the cost of emission cuts by just 6-7%. The report also states that behavioural changes, such as dietary changes that could involve eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions.
As part of setting out how the world’s nations can cut emissions effectively, the IPCC report gives prominence to ethical considerations. “[Carbon emission cuts] and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness,” says the report. “The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective [international] cooperation.”
These issues are central to the global climate change negotiations and their inclusion in the report was welcomed by campaigners, as was the statement that adapting countries and coastlines to cope with global warming cannot by itself avert serious impacts.
“Rich governments must stop making empty promises and come up with the cash so the poorest do not have to foot the bill for the lifestyles of the wealthy,” said Harjeet Singh, from ActionAid.
The statement that carbon emissions must fall to zero was “gamechanging”, according to Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace. “We can still limit warming to 2C, or even 1.5C or less even, [but] we need to phase out emissions,” she said. Unlike CCS, which is yet to be proven commercially, she said renewable energy was falling rapidly in cost.
Sam Smith, from WWF, said: “The big change in this report is that it shows fighting climate change is not going to cripple economies and that it is essential to bringing people out of poverty. What is needed now is concerted political action.” The rapid response of politicians to the recent global financial crisis showed, according to Smith, that “they could act quickly and at scale if they are sufficiently motivated”.
Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said the much greater certainty expressed in the new IPCC report would give international climate talks a better chance than those which failed in 2009. “Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for no action,” he said.
Observers played down the moves made by some countries with large fossil fuel reserves to weaken the language of the draft IPCC report written by scientists and seen by the Guardian, saying the final report was conservative but strong.
However, the statement that “climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, including greater likelihood of death” was deleted in the final report, along with criticism that politicians sometimes “engage in short-term thinking and are biased toward the status quo”.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Synthesis Report distils and integrates the findings of the three working group contributions to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report — the most comprehensive assessment of climate change yet undertaken, produced by hundreds of scientists — as well as the two Special Reports produced during this cycle.
One short section of the Summary for Policymakers says:
“Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, global emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities. Global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 in baseline scenarios – those without additional mitigation – range from 3.7 to 4.8°C above the average for 1850-1900 for a median climate response.
They range from 2.5°C to 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty (5th to 95th percentile range). (high confidence)
Emissions scenarios leading to GHG concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm CO2-eq or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2°C over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels.
These scenarios are characterized by 40% to 70% global anthropogenic GHG emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010 and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100. Mitigation scenarios reaching concentration levels of about 500 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 are more likely than not to limit temperature change to less than 2oC, unless they temporarily overshoot concentration levels of roughly 530 ppm CO2-eq before 2100, in which case they are about as likely as not to achieve that goal.
In these 500 ppm CO2-eq scenarios, global 2050 emissions levels are 25-55% lower than in 2010. Scenarios with higher emissions in 2050 are characterized by a greater reliance on Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies beyond mid-century (and vice versa).
Trajectories that are likely to limit warming to 3°C relative to pre-industrial levels reduce emissions less rapidly than those limiting warming to 2oC. A limited number of studies provide scenarios that are more likely than not to limit warming to 1.5°C by 2100; these scenarios are characterized by concentrations below 430 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 and 2050 emission reduction between 70% and 95% below 2010.
For a comprehensive overview of the characteristics of emissions scenarios, their GHG concentrations and their likelihood to keep warming to below a range of temperature levels, see Table SPM.1″
“Delaying additional mitigation to 2030 will substantially increase the challenges associated with limiting warming over the 21st century to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. It will require substantially higher rates of emissions reductions from 2030 to 2050; a much more rapid scale-up of low-carbon energy over this period; a larger reliance on CDR in the long term; and higher transitional and long-term economic impacts. Estimated global emissions levels in 2020 based on the Cancún Pledges are not consistent with cost effective mitigation trajectories that are at least about as likely as not to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, but they do not preclude the option to meet this goal (high confidence)”.
IPCC’s urgent warning to tackle climate change
The UN panel of climate scientists says some consequences of global warming will become irreversible unless greenhouse gas emissions fall to zero by the end of the century − but latest research suggests the reality may be even more urgent than that.
By Alex Kirby
LONDON, 3 November, 2014
Climate change threatens to become “severe, pervasive and irreversible”, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Without drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the report says, global average temperatures will probably increase by another 2°C by mid-century on their 1986-2005 levels. This implies temperatures nearly 4°C higher by 2100.
The warnings come in the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, itself a distillation of the three distinct volumes of the Panel’s Fifth Assessment Report (on climate science, impacts and mitigation) published since September 2013.
Will to change
The IPCC chair, Dr R K Pachauri, said at the Summary’s launch in Copenhagen: “We have the means to limit climate change. The solutions are many, and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change. . .”
The Panel insists that adapting to climate change will not be enough, and that the world must make “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.
Dr Pachauri said: “To keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC [the international threshold for temperature rise], and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40% to 70% globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100.”
The Summary, spelling out in careful terms what this means, says: “A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from CO2 emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial timescale, except in the case of a large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period.”
Put more simply, this means that without an effective way to clean up the main greenhouse gas, the world will face permanent changes. Unfortunately, the method proposed for cleaning the atmosphere − carbon capture and storage − has not yet proved itself at scale.
So Dr Pachauri’s plea that the world finds “the will to change“ is fine, so far as it goes. The problem is that there are also several technological hurdles still to surmount.
And that’s not the only problem with this report. As with previous major IPCC reports, it unavoidably trails some way behind the facts. The authors of the three volumes on which the Summary is based, published in the last 14 months, were able to consider only climate science published up till 15 March, 2013.
But among research published since then − and too late to be considered by the IPCC teams − was a NASA report suggesting that the melting glaciers of West Antarctica may have passed the point of no return, with serious consequences for global sea levels.
Yet the IPCC Summary says simply: “Abrupt and irreversible ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is possible, but current evidence and understanding is insufficient to make a quantitative assessment.”
Other recent advances in climate science that were published too late for the Panel to consider relate to the Greenland ice sheet and to the Amazon.
This is not to blame the IPCC for producing a report that has serious gaps. Its assessment reports appear only once every six or seven years, and are written by unpaid volunteers, supported by a permanent staff of around 12 people.
But if you hear the IPCC being accused − as it often is − of alarmism, consider how truly alarming the Summary would have been if the authors had been able to digest all we now know about the effects of climate change. − Climate News Network
IATA’s Fact Sheet: Climate Change
- An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year to 2020
- A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020: carbon-neutral growth
- Cut net CO2 emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005 [Net emissions. Not gross].
Air Transport’s Climate Change Track Record
- Air transport accounts for 2% of global manmade CO2 emissions
- Air transport’s relative contribution has not increased in the past 20 years and is not expected to increase beyond 3% by 2050 according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
- Air transport has reduced its fuel use and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer by well over 70% compared to the 1960s.
- Although in 2012 passenger kilometer performed increased by as much as 5.3% and tonne kilometers performed by 3.3%, total emissions increased only 1.4% to 689 million tonnes of CO2, compared to 679 million tonnes in 2011
- Emissions growth of 1.4% in 2012 is the result of
- A 2.7% capacity increase (accounting for 18 million tonnes of CO2)
- But was partially offset by an annual percentage efficiency improvement of 1.3%
Carbon-Neutral Growth 2020 (CNG2020)
- CNG2020 means that aviation’s net CO2 emissions will not increase beyond 2020 levels even as demand for air transport continues to grow
- The industry is working hard to deliver CNG2020 (Four Pillar strategy), but it is also contingent upon action by other stakeholders, notably:
- The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) needs to adopt a CO2 emission standard for new aircraft types
- Governments and fuel companies need to support and scale up the production of sustainable biofuels for aviation
- Governments and air navigation service providers need to improve air traffic management, and live up to their commitments to deliver the Single European Sky in Europe and NextGen in the United States
- At its Annual General Meeting in June 2013, IATA members adopted a resolutionproviding a set of principles on how governments could integrate a single global market-based measure as part of an overall package of measures to put a cap on net aviation emissions from 2020
Four Pillar Strategy to Address Climate Change
- Short-term: enhancements and modifications to existing in-service fleet
- Medium-term: accelerate fleet renewal, introduce latest technologies, including drop-in biofuels
- Long-term: radical new technologies and aircraft designs
- IATA Technology Roadmap identifies technologies that could reduce fuel burn per aircraft by up to 30%
- Improved operations can save fuel and CO2 emissions by up to 6% per year (IPCC)
- IATA helps fuel conservation by compiling best practices, publishing guidance, visiting airlines and training
- IATA will extend fuel conservation programs and promote airline environmental management systems
- Governments and infrastructure providers could avoid up to 12% of CO2 emissions by addressing airport and airspace inefficiencies (IPCC)
- Some 4% of this has already been achieved since 1999 (according to the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation – CANSO)
- Single European Sky (SES), US NextGen Air Transport System and flexible use of airspace would contribute to these savings
- To the extent that the industry’s climate change objectives may not be achieved through the first three pillars alone, a cost-effective single global market-based measure is needed to bridge the gap
- Considering the international nature of aviation, a global approach to aviation emissions must be preferred over a patchwork of individual and uncoordinated policies:
- A market-based measure should be cost-effective and administratively simple
- Airlines should only be held accountable once for their emissions
- A patchwork of measures may lead to the same emissions being covered by more than one mechanism.
- A global mechanism is needed to prevent market distortions and carbon leakage
At its 38th session, the ICAO Assembly decided to develop a global market-based measure for international aviation. It requested the ICAO Council to finalize the work on the technical aspects, environmental and economic impacts and modalities of the possible options for a global MBM scheme. The results of the work of the Council will be reported to the next Assembly in 2016 for approval.
Updated: December 2013