New comprehensive IPCC report released

report coverThe International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its 5th Assessment Report (AR5). The AR5 supersedes the AR4 (now 7 years old), as the most complete synthesis available of everything we know about current climate change.

The IPCC reports are written by teams of scientists drawn from all over the world. They summarize the scientific literature and a broad consensus of scientific understanding. The IPCC effort is divided into three Working Groups (WG):

  • WG I: The Physical Science;
  • WG II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
  • WG III: Mitigation (prevention) of Climate Change.

Together, these teams assess

  • I: the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change
  • II: the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it
  • III: options for mitigating (or reducing) climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere.

While the full WG reports are highly technical, each has a ‘Synthesis for Policy Makers’ summary that is written to be understood by the general public.

Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability), has produced a two volume report for the AR5, one of which considers impacts from a global perspective, and the other from regional perspectives. Thus, there are chapters on the global implications for water resources, rising sea level, food security, and economics. These analyses include not just the problems created but also positive actions that can help ameliorate them. In the second volume, these same issues are revisited from regional perspectives, continent by continent, including island nations, and polar regions, because the specific impacts and best solutions for them vary widely across the globe.

Working Group III. The most recent portion of the AR5 to become publically available is the Summary for Policy Makers on mitigation of climate change. This report does not identify a single path to the future, but rather develops a broad summary of the opportunities in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency, and the implications of different combinations and rates of deployment, cost/benefit analyses, and potential macroeconomic outcomes as well as climate outcomes.

A central theme of the new release is that global emissions are still growing at their fastest rate ever, and that rapid, effective action is needed for mitigation at a global scale. It is still possible to achieve current international policy goals and treaty targets that limit total climate change to manageable levels a reality, but the longer effective action is delayed, the more difficult and more costly effective mitigation will become.

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Category: What's With the Weather

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