In the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report just released, it warned that greenhouse gas levels are at their highest they have been in 800,000 years, with recent increases mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels.
“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impact for people and ecosystems,” the report said.
“Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.”
Speaking on the issue, IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri said the comprehensive report brings together “all the pieces of the puzzle” in climate research and predictions.
“It’s not discrete, and highlights distinct elements of climate change that people have to deal with, but also how you might be able to deal with this problem on a comprehensive basis by understanding how these pieces of the puzzle actually come together,” Dr Pachauri said.
The report reiterates that the planet is unequivocally warming, that burning fossil fuels is significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change like sea level rises are already being felt.
The report also said most of the world’s electricity should be produced from low carbon sources by 2050 and that fossil fuel burning for power should be virtually stopped by the end of the century.
Last month, Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said coal is “good for humanity” and will be the “world’s main energy source for decades to come” as he opened a new mine in central Queensland.
IPCC vice-chair Jean-Pascale van persele said while Mr Abbott was correct to point out the world could not end its reliance on fossil fuels for energy immediately, change was necessary.
“The continued usage of fossil fuel could damage not only the environment but more substantially even the habitability of the planet and could erode the possibility to keep this planet habitable,” he said.
“He’s right, but the IPCC is right as well, and this is why climate negotiations, where the different bits of information including about the importance of energy in development, need to be taken into account and that’s also why the climate negotiations are so difficult.
Speaking on the report, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said it was the most comprehensive appraisal of climate change yet and that human influence was clear.