Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents, but its effects can still be controlled, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said. The IPCC in a report following the concluding installment of the Fifth Assessment Report on November 2nd stated that if left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
According to the report, options are available to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigation activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future. The Synthesis Report distills and integrates the findings of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report produced by over 800 scientists and released over the past 13 months, the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change,” she added. The Synthesis Report confirmed that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I. The report expresses with greater certainty than in previous assessments the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic rivers have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.
The impacts of climate change have already been felt in recent decades on all continents and across the oceans. The more human activity disrupts the climate, the greater the risks. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society and the natural world, the report finds.
The Synthesis Report made a clear case that many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.
Indeed, limiting the effects of climate change raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness and is necessary to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. “Many of those most vulnerable to climate change have contributed and contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions,” Pachauri said. “Addressing climate change will not be possible if individual agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved.