The future of Earth’s climate | Asia Pacific Greens

The future of Earth’s climate

by Kennedy Graham

The IPCC has released today the 2nd Working Group’s report of its 5th Assessment Report.

The WG II report follows the WGI report on the scientific basis of climate change, released in Sept. ’13. This report assesses the impact on the planet of the expected climate change.  A 3rd report by WGIII, due mid-April, explores the possible response strategies.

This trilateral structure – science, impact, strategy – has been followed in all five IPCC reports.

The 1st Assessment Report (AR-1) was released in 1990.  Back then, the IPCC scientists said they were ‘certain’ that

“…emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations  of the greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface.”

The IPCC calculated, in 1990, ‘with confidence’ that:

“…CO2 has been responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect; long-lived gases would require immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% to stabilize their concentrations at today’s levels.”

The IPCC scientists are saying the same thing in 2014, albeit with a higher confidence level.

So, almost 24 years ago, the IPCC scientists issued the warning of dangerous climate change – a warning that they have issued on each occasion with each assessment report – AR-2 in 1995, AR-3 in 2001, AR-4 in ’07, and AR-5 in ’14.

The UN Security Council has discussed climate change on three occasions since 2007, concluding that it is a ‘risk multiplier’ to international peace and security.  The UN Secretary-General told the Council that, in his view, it already is a threat to international peace and security.  He has said to students at Yale:

“The science is clear; we should waste no more time on that debate. I have seen with my own eyes, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from the Andes to Asia, the melting glaciers, the encroaching   deserts, the gathering impacts in urban and rural areas alike.

But instead of seeing this as a prohibitively costly burden, let us look at the opportunities — the immense opportunities of building a job-rich green economy.

I ask all of you to be global citizens. Speak up. Get your leaders to do their part.”

Meanwhile back in New Zealand, ACT President Jamie Whyte, fresh from his study of philosophy in the UK, says that all we need to do is adapt.  This is the political party that had, under earlier leadership (Hide, Banks), described global warming as a ‘hoax’. Mr Whyte has no choice now but to drop that, and content himself with the joys of ‘adaptation’.

Mr Whyte needs to demonstrate his talents in the next few months describing ACT’s policies for a world adapting to a temperature rise of 2ºC to 4ºC.  That is described by World Bank consultants as exceeding ‘dangerous’ climate change and entering the realm of ‘catastrophic’. What we see around us today by way of impact – overseas, and even here in New Zealand, is on the strength of 0.8ºC to date.

It is imbecility of such ecocidal proportion that has thwarted fast global action over the past 24 years, and which now glibly turns to adaptation rather than mitigation.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand