The latest summary report from the IPCC launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last weekend tells some familiar stories. Dangerous climate change is already happening, here and now, and without action, it will get much worse. But the good news is that we still have time to deal with it before the impacts become catastrophic.
IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri and the report authors emphasize that we can go down a clean energy path where we manage to adapt to modest climate change, or follow a path with increasing carbon pollution worldwide where severe climate change threatens our societies and derails our economies. The choice is still ours to be made.
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) marks the culmination of a 5-year-effort by 830 authors, 1200 other contributors and 3700 expert reviewers drawing on more than 30,000 pieces of research and 143,000 expert comments to produce an unprecedented body of evidence on the climate crisis. The conclusion? Climate action will cost next to nothing, but it will bring about a range of benefits. If we don’t transition to a low carbon economy, which will include shifting to cleaner energy sources by mid-century, we will see billions of dollars in damages and radical disruptions in our way of life.
What does the report say about Europe? In world where very little is done to reduce carbon emissions, by the end of the century rainfall in the dry south will further decrease while it increases in the already wet north. The number of frost days will dramatically decrease, bringing about an increase in pests. Coastal flooding may affect up to 5.5 million Europeans. Direct costs from sea level rise in the EU, without adaptation, could reach €17 billion PER YEAR. And there is more bad news for Europe if we don’t act…
But there is no reason our future needs to look like this. Breakthroughs in the affordability and effectiveness of renewable energy technologies since the last IPCC report in 2007 means that the transition to a low-carbon economy is more attainable than ever. More than 700,000 people around the world hit the streets in September to demand more climate action. Now all we need is for our governments to listen to the experts and the people.