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2020 Is Key Number From Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Analysis
SAN FRANCISCO— Carbon pollution is heating up the planet, raising sea levels, melting sea ice and glaciers at an increasing pace, acidifying the oceans and increasing many regions’ danger from heat waves, floods and damaging storms, according to a landmark scientific report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Left unchecked, the climate crisis threatens people and wildlife around the globe.
The report, prepared by more than 800 of the world’s leading experts, also underscores the disturbing fact that pollution-control efforts by President Barack Obama and other world leaders fall far short of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to avert catastrophic climate change.
“This report has lots of facts and figures, but the most important number is 2020, the latest year that carbon pollution must peak to avert catastrophic impacts from climate change,” said Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Global warming is damaging our world, and many of the dangerous effects are happening faster than expected. Unless President Obama and other world leaders move much more quickly to reduce emissions, climate change will fundamentally transform our planet.”
In the new report, IPCC’s experts forecast catastrophic climate changes if the world continues on the current fossil fuel-intensive emissions pathway. These impacts include a global average temperature increase of up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit; global average sea-level rise maximums exceeding 3 feet; a more than 100 percent increase in ocean acidity by the end of the century; and near-complete loss of the Arctic’s summer sea ice before mid-century.
According to the report, it is still possible to avoid the worst climate impacts if global governments instead adopt the IPCC’s lowest emissions pathway, which requires global emissions to peak by 2020 at the latest (and the earlier the better), with substantial declines in emissions afterwards. This pathway would lead to a 70 percent reduction in mean temperature rise, a 40 percent reduction in sea-level rise, and an 85 percent reduction in ocean acidity rise by 2100, as well as preserving summer sea ice, compared with our current pathway.
The Obama administration has begun rolling out policies intended to cut emissions, but these measures are too slight and come too late to head off catastrophic climate change. The administration’s recently announced “New Source Performance Standards” for new power plants, for example, will make only minor cuts to power plant pollution over the coming years. The Center has urged President Obama to make much more assertive use of the Clean Air Act to fight greenhouse gas pollution from a wide range of sources.
“The message from the world’s scientists is loud and clear: Rapid, bold cuts in carbon pollution should be our first priority,” said Dr. Wolf. “We have no time for delay.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.