IPCC Report Calls for Fast, Substantial Emissions Reductions to Slow Climate Change

April 13, 2014
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – April 13, 2014) The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says all countries need to do more to reduce global warming, and we need to do it fast.

The IPCC released its third in a series of comprehensive reports on climate change today in Berlin. This report focuses on the need to reduce or prevent global emissions of greenhouse gases.

Today’s report underscores the findings of the IPCC’s report from last month that climate change is affecting all parts of the planet, and that all countries must work together to reduce warming in order to prevent global temperatures from exceeding the point beyond which catastrophic changes to our planet become irreversible.

Like all IPCC reports, it is the work of hundreds of scientists from around the world who volunteered their time for the project – including EDF’s Visiting Chief Economist Thomas Sterner, who is a Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 15: “National and Sub-national Policy Instruments.”

“There are real opportunities to limit emissions, but we need the application of strong policy instruments around the world,” said Sterner. “For instance, in most countries right now there is virtually no cost to emitting greenhouse gases, but an increasing number of areas are starting to adopt permit trading – AB32 in California is one of the most recent and most sophisticated of those systems. Other important policy instruments that we identified include stimulating research on new technologies, and removing the subsidies on fossil fuels that are now in place in many countries.”

Other findings of today’s report include:

  • Global emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities have continued to rise. Total manmade greenhouse gas emission rates were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010.
  • Carbon dioxide accounts for 78 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2010; methane accounts for 16 percent.
    About half of all carbon dioxide emissions between 1750 and 2010 occurred in the last 40 years.
  • The energy, industry and transport sectors are dominating emissions increases. On the current trajectory, global transportation emissions will double by 2050.
  • Emissions from consumption growth continue to outgrow emission savings from energy efficiency improvements.
  • The world needs to act now, and move quickly, to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change. The longer we delay action, the more expensive it will be.
  • To have a fifty-fifty chance of avoiding the most dangerous climate change scenarios, countries will need to cut emissions by at least 40 percent from 2010 levels by the year 2050.
  • There is a range of options for sustainable climate actions. Almost 1,000 scenarios were analyzed for the report.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced significantly by replacing current coal‐fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined‐cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants — provided that the fugitive emissions associated with extraction are low or mitigated.
  • Renewable energy technologies, including wind and solar power, have finally achieved a level of maturity to enable large-scale deployment, although steep challenges still exist.
  • Behavioral and lifestyle changes — including lower energy use in households, buying longer-lasting products, and reducing food waste – can considerably lower emissions alongside technological and structural changes.
  • Effective actions will only be achieved by international cooperation. Fortunately, the number of institutions for international cooperation is increasing.

(You can find the report and all related documents here)

“The report shows that we need to take action, but also it shows that we have many tools at our disposal to help us tackle climate change,” said EDF climate scientist Ilissa Ocko. “This is a great opportunity for America to step into its traditional role as a world leader. Reducing warming will require a global effort, but the U.S. has the talent and the ability to lead the world into a safer, healthier, clean energy future.”

IPCC reports have been tracking climate change since 1990. This round of reports is the Fifth Assessment. The first of this round of reports was released in September, 2013 and looked at the science behind climate change. The second was released on March 31, 2014 and looked at the impacts of climate change and the need for adaptation.

The IPCC will release a fourth document synthesizing the findings from these three reports. That’s expected in October, and will be the basis for the international climate negotiations that will be held in Paris next year.

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