The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out this month on the impacts of climate change, how to adapt to those impacts, and how we must reduce greenhouse gas pollution. These two reports compliment the IPCC’s report last fall on the latest physical science of climate change. All three reports, respectively called the Working Group or WG 1, 2, and 3, are part of the 5th Assessment Report, or AR5 for short and are being released as a series, with WG1 covering the physical science of climate change, WG2 covering the impacts of climate change and adaptation strategies, and WG3 covering climate change mitigation.
As we reported in September, the confidence of AR5 is much higher than in previous assessment reports (AR4 was released in 2007) that climate change is happening now, that it’s due to human activity, and it’s having negative impacts on society and the environment. WG1 stated greater-than-ever confidence (95% confidence) that human activity is the cause of climate change; WG2 states that climate change is happening now on every continent and that its impacts, such as the extreme weather we have experienced recently, are becoming ever more evident.
The report released yesterday, WG3, stresses the urgency of transitioning into the clean energy economy.
If we are to live in a future in which global average temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius–the level agreed upon by international scientists and policymakers–we need our fossil-fuel-caused greenhouse gas emissions to drop by 40-70% from 2010 levels by 2050, and to practically zero out by 2100. To help this happen, WG3 says we need to triple or quadruple, worldwide, our carbon-free energy sources such as solar, wind, and other renewable technologies by 2050.
This news hits home in the Southeast at an interesting time, as climate change adaptation is being proactively worked on even as climate science is being systematically suppressed. For example, regional communities in Florida have shown worldwide leadership on the issue of climate adaptation planning, while at the same time North Carolina’s Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been taking away public access to key climate change information by simply deleting its webpages on climate change and removing major state reports. The Dan River coal ash spill has yet again shown the horrific side of our fossil fuel addiction, while the Obama administration, supported by our state officials, are moving to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling for the first time in history.
But the outlook is not entirely bleak – in fact, there are opportunities at hand to support the transition to the clean energy economy. Even as the Obama administration attempts to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, the Environmental Protection Agency is collecting comments on a proposal to set limits for carbon pollution from new fossil-burning power plants and is preparing to release a proposal for first-ever limits on existing power plants later this year. Take a minute to submit comments in support of these proposals to the EPA.
Longer term opportunities to help advance clean energy are also at hand: both 2014 and 2016 are election years. This November and again two years later, we must take the opportunity to ensure that candidates who threaten the public with dangerous climate denial and short-sighted subservience to fossil fuel interests are not put into or left in positions of power so that champions for a livable future, advocating for climate action and clean energy, can become our leaders. More information on tracking climate heroes and climate zeros is available at the SACE Action Fund website.
Special thanks to Jennifer Rennicks for her contributions to this blog.