The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for the purpose of assessing scientific , technical and socio- economic information relevant to understanding the risks associated with human – induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
The 12th Session of the Working Group 1 (WG1) of the IPCC and the 26thSession of the IPCC was held from 23-26 September 2013 in Stockholm , Sweden . A panel of leading climate scientists at these sessions strongly asserted that “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause “ of global warming since 1950 and warned of more rapid ice melt and rising seas if governments do not aggressively act to reduce the pace of greenhouse gas emissions.
In the latest assessment of climate change, scientists for the first time established a budget for the amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere and even in reaching this target it will still have an adverse impact on the environment well into the future.
“As the oceans warm , and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years “said Qin Dahe, a Chinese scientist who co –chaired the working group that produced a part of the summary for government policymakers.
The 2000-page report of the IPCC appointed by the United Nations was released on 30 September 2013.
Some of the key findings were that the planet is warming at a rapid pace without any doubt, that humans are causing it with 95 percent certainty and that the past decades have been hottest since 1950.
Carbon concentrations in the atmosphere have increased 40 percent since then, and carbon, methane and nitrous oxide are at unprecedented levels in at least 800,000 years.
It has also been revealed that Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have steadily melted in two decades and glaciers are shrinking worldwide and the average sea level rise would reach 3 feet by 2100
Scientists arrived at their conclusions by drawing on more than 9000 publications and considered more than 54 000 comments from about 1 050 people in 52 nations. They also expressed high confidence on their findings as climate models observing surface temperature patterns have that have improved over the past 6 years.
Changes in the global water cycle in response to warming over the 21 st. century will not be uniform.
The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase although there may be regional exceptions. The erratic weather patterns presently experienced in Sri Lanka may be attributable to such changes.
However the above findings did not dissuade a small group of climate scientists who believe that humans did or do not cause significant global warming or that the Earth is suffering from warming effects.
The Heartland Institute, a NGO group funded by individuals and corporations denounced the IPCC’s findings in a statement, citing a contradictory report called Climate Change reconsidered 11, released about a week ago by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). It is believed that the major oil companies are behind such funding in order to negate the findings of the IPCC.
NIPCC scientists believe that “the human impact on climate is very small and any warming that may be due to human greenhouse gas emissions is likely to be so small as to be invisible. Further the critics of the climate computer models that the IPCC and other scientists rely upon have not taken the 15 year global warming slowdown into account.
These findings should be judged on the basis that the NIPCC has fewer climate change scientists as compared to IPCC which has 800 scientists from around the globe including workers at agencies such as NASA etc.
Most of the members of the United Nations including United States reacted favorably to the IPCCC Scientific Panel report .US Secretary of State John Kerry said that “climate change is real” and that the US is determined to be a leader in curbing emissions.
It is interesting to note that the findings provided a carbon budget of 1 trillion tons of carbon released to the atmosphere to avoid worst effects of climate change and more than half of that amount has already been released .Further up to 3 trillion tons of carbon are still buried in the earth as fossil fuel s and further burning of such fuel will definitely accelerate global warming. It is now evident that burning fossil fuels will accelerate global warming and the answer is to invest on research for renewable energy to make such energy competitive with fossil fuels.
The findings of the scientific group are a “warning bell” to the world according to Frances Beinecke President of the Natural Resources Defence Council USA. She further believes that the impacts are fierce forest fires ,drought ,floods and storms that would get worse with delay to arrest global warming.
In conclusion the scientists dealing with global warming in the various government agencies and other academic institutions in Sri Lanka should carefully study the 2000 page report of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR 5) and work out a long term strategy to arrest global warming .
(The writer is a retired Economic Affairs Officer United Nations ESCAP and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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