IPCC AR5 completed: science has spoken – cut deep, cut soon

The IPCC’s Fifth Report process reached its climax in Copenhagen yesterday with the release of the final “synthesis” report (download here), which pulls together all the strands from the three working group reports on the physical science (Working Group 1), climate impacts (WG2) and how to go about dealing with the problem (WG3). Launching the report, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon was blunt:

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Given that it’s based entirely on the work done for the underlying reports, there are no surprises the synthesis report for anyone who has been following climate news over the last year, but what is striking is the emphasis on the need for rapid and deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions – and a corresponding steep increase in investment in renewable energy sources. Ban Ki-Moon emphasised the point in a comment aimed at investors:

“Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”

Writing in the Guardian, Bill McKibben notes an increase in the urgency of the language being used:

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, [scientists] are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

The Guardian’s coverage is – as always – exemplary. In addition to Damian Carrington’s news report, they also give good graph. See also the BBC, and Stuff – who take the AP coverage.

New Zealand’s climate change minister Tim Groser issued a press release to welcome the report:

It is the best scientific assessment of climate issues available. I’m delighted that New Zealand scientists have contributed to this body of knowledge.

If that’s really the case, why is Groser enacting policies which are currently pointing NZ towards a 50% increase in emissions instead of deep cuts? Perhaps he should be listening to Ban Ki-moon when he says “”There is a myth that climate action will cost heavily, but inaction will cost much more.”

24 thoughts on “IPCC AR5 completed: science has spoken – cut deep, cut soon”

  1. Was it the the NZ government, then, who insisted that the following inconvenient truths be removed from the final report?

    The statement that “climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, including greater likelihood of death” was deleted in the final report, along with criticism that politicians sometimes “engage in short-term thinking and are biased toward the status quo”.


      1. Andy, you are confusing the slope of the mortality-time function with the area under the curve.

        Are you SURE that you gained a maths degree at a famous university?

        Or was it just a PR diploma from Koch Industries?

        1. If they are claiming that climate change will reduce life expectancy over the average population, then they should have said so.

          Given that life expectancy for humans is increasing, this might be a hard assertion to justify

          1. Andy S. Greater likelihood of death? This is just shorthand for the absolutely self evident, to the rest of us anyway. It just means things like heatwaves will be more lethal.

            Of course you can have more air conditioning, but this all costs money that some countries don’t have. And it is all money spent struggling to adapt that could be better spent on other things. This is the hard economics of ignoring reducing emissions.

    1. Very little unless NZ as a whole wakes up and realises that the current “administration” are little more than puppets for vested interests. NZ will go to the dogs before these people will do anything constructive.

  2. I take initial responsibility for identifying problems with the “increased likelihood of death” wording in the Synthesis Report draft. I suggested that as we are all going to die sometime (unless there has been a medical breakthrough I don’t know about!) the likelihood of death is already 1.0 – and that something like “increased likelihood of EARLY death” would be a better wording, if that was the meaning the authors had in mind. So you can blame me rather than the NZ Government. David Wratt

  3. And so while the glaciers continue to decline and the Earth continues to warm you dabble in syntactical pedantry.

    An apt metaphor for fiddling while Rome burns.

      1. The correct bureacratic phrase is “an expected increase in morbidity and mortality”, otherwise known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Disease and Death.

        As for Andy, his comments are straight from the “Divert, Distract and Deny” playbook of those who profit from the increasing use of fossil fuels.

        1. So while we live longer thanks to better health care, pharmaceuticals, food and warm and dry homes, we will at the same time live less long thanks to “climate change”

          I’m sure someone can tease out the trends, perhaps a few models might help.

          1. AndyS. Advances in health care might reduce death rates from things like heat waves, but it is unrealistic to assume miraculous advances that would cancel out all the impacts of global warming. And all resources spent on healthcare require effort and expenditure of resources. Global warming will force us to spend ever more resources combating global warming, money more usefully spent on other things one would think.

            1. How many people have been killed by “global warming”?

              The WHO had a report where there was zero attribution of health impacts to GW. Later, they doubled all the numbers and attributed those to GW (this is described in “The Climate Fix” by RP Jr)

              Do we have anything better?

          2. So, my fellow Romans, while we live longer thanks to more slaves, better Gods, Emperors, food and warm, dry homes, we will at the same time live less long thanks to “barbarian invasions”?

  4. Bryan Leyland appeared on Breakfast TV One this morning, on an interview entitled “climate change deniers fight back”, speaking in response to the IPCC report.

  5. As a typical breakfast TV viewer (ie only half-listening while getting ready for the day), I thought Leyland’s denier argument could be summed up as “It’s not true.”

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