The Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released overnight in Valencia, Spain. If there is one thing that you are going to read from the IPCC, then it should be this document.
This is the final phase of the 4th Assessment report. The SPM draws together the evidence, discussion and conclusions of the 3 IPCC working groups from the fourth assessment report and provide it as a no-nonsense, on-partisan digest for policy makers.
Summarizing most the conclusions that fall into the IPCC’s ‘likely’ to ‘almost certain’ categories, the following seems to true for climate change. We are now in a rapidly warming climate that is changing natural and human systems. The burning of fossil fuels and land-use change by humans is driving these changes. Ice is disappearing from our glaciers and snow fields, water supplies are drying up and food production is being threatened. Natural ecosystems from rainforest to the southern ocean are changing rapidly. Millions of lives are threatened by the combination of a hot house future, with rising sea levels and intensifying natural disasters.
The synthesis highlights several growing certainties. These are that our current trajectory will put us into a world which is described at the upper end of the IPCC trajectories. “There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG (Green House Gas) emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades.“
Specifically, this will involve the loss of water supplies to hundreds of millions, the loss of coral reefs, rainforests and other significant global assets, the loss of 50% or more of species, increasing crop failures at low latitudes, inundation of coastal areas, and a rapidly rising death toll from disease, flooding and heat waves. The kicker is that many of these impacts, while serious at high latitudes will be greatest for developing nations which are mostly clustered at low latitudes.
The worst impacts will be on those people who least can afford to respond. Hence, in the words of Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), “Failing to recognize the urgency of this message and acting on it would be nothing less than criminally irresponsible.”