By Natalie Fahey, European Institute
The most important conclusion of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, released today ahead of the next UN climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland in November - is that the scientific community can now say with 95% certainty that "human influence has been the dominant cause" of global warming since the mid 20th century. While previous assessment reports have drawn similar conclusions, NPR's Richard Harris remarks that the significance of the report is that it "underlines that the more scientists study this issue, the more confident they are that human activities are changing the planet."
From both sides of the Atlantic the report has elicited calls for a greater sense of urgency in addressing the human component of climate change and CO2 emissions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the report as "yet another wake-up call, … Climate change is real, it’s happening now, human beings are the cause of this transformation, and only action by human beings can save the world from its worst impacts." Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action emphasized that "The issue is not whether to believe in climate change or not. The issue is whether to follow science or not. The day when all scientists with 100% certainty warn you against climate change, it will be too late. If your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious disease, you would immediately start looking for the cure."
The report is the work of 209 lead authors and 50 reviewing editors from 39 countries and is certain to become the basis for the ongoing discussions on how to combat climate change.
As nations seek to reach an agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union continues to strengthen its Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently under scrutiny from third countries following the inclusion of aviation emissions in its purview. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly is currently meeting in Montreal to consider a global system for curbing aviation emissions. Meanwhile the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new carbon pollution standards for new power plants as a part of the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan, which seeks to "couple action at home with leadership internationally."