Sunday, September 29, 2013

As the Climate Change Debate Continues, the UN Releases a Report for Policymakers

Last week, the United Nations released its “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis: Summary for Policymakers” report. The study’s co- chairperson Qin Dahe said, “Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.” Co-chairperson Thomas Stocker said, “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” Observations from the report include:
  • the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions.”
  • each ofthe last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850,
  • it is virtually certain that the upper ocean warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971,
  • over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent and
  • Climate change discussions have been hampered by mistakes and misrepresentation of facts by proponents on many sides of the debate. These discussions have often been framed in terms of job growth/destruction, energy independence/security and economic development/growth
  • The UN report does not cover much new ground but it does reinforce the view of significant environmental impacts.  
  • While progress may be slow, increased actions by governments and awareness by consumers will likely drive demand for solutions
  • Success solutions will require an understanding of technological innovation, public policy dynamics and business fundamentals

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