Global efforts to reduce carbon emissions have not stopped greenhouse gases from reaching unprecedented levels. This is according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has released its Working Group III report in Berlin.
Fundamental changes needed
The report indicates that energy efficiency improvements have not kept up with economic growth and that if there are no real improvements by 2030, we may end up relying on technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the air.
The report includes a variety of pathways to a more stable climate system by 2100. These paths give us an opportunity to avoid global warming. The summary of the report states: “The stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at low levels requires a fundamental transformation of the energy supply system.”
Zero carbon power in the form of renewables is a central part of the equation, the report says. It identifies four key technologies for achieving aggressive emissions reductions goals: nuclear power, energy efficiency, biofuels, and biomass energy with carbon capture and storage.
A scientific guide towards a cleaner future
Several years in the making, the document is the third part of a three-part “assessment” of scientific literature since 2007, when IPCC last published its last round of voluminous assessment reports. IPCC released the first part, on climate science, in September 2013; the second report, on impacts of climate change, came out last month.
The report has been compiled as a scientific guide for nations working on a United Nations deal to be agreed in late 2015 to reduce world greenhouse gas emissions that continue to rise.
Governments around the world have committed to limiting temperature increases to a maximum 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. This has been in response to avert the effects of climate change which is causing extreme heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels. According to the panel, these are linked to air pollution.
Man-made emissions the real culprit
The IPCC says it is at least 95% probable that man-made emissions are the main culprit of global warming. By taking this into account, aiming for a clean and sustainable energy future becomes even more compelling and urgent.
Scenarios in the report show that world emissions of greenhouse gases would need to peak soon and tumble by between 40 and 70 per cent from 2010 levels by 2050, and then close to zero by 2100, to maintain temperatures below 2C.
These new cuts will probably come as a big shock to most governments.
While we face many obstacles such as vested interests, blinkered ideology and political short-termism, the IPCC has made it clear that we are running out of time and that the world needs to make a rapid transition away from polluting fossil fuels and towards low-carbon, sustainable sources of energy.
IPCC's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, points out, “The high-speed mitigation train would need to leave the station soon and all of global society have to get on board.”