New IPCC report: No more business as usual to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

By Sara Wyant

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Berlin, April 13, 2014 - Despite many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that global emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. And if nothing is done to address this threat around the globe, temperatures will continue to rise.

In order to limit the increase in global mean temperature to 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels - a goal established in international agreements - the report suggests that dramatic changes in energy sources and new investments in a wide array of technologies are needed.

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“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of IPCC. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”

Working Group III is led by three Co-Chairs: Ottmar Edenhofer from Germany, Ramón Pichs Madruga from Cuba, and Youba Sokona from Mali.

 

Their report doesn't endorse any single approach but cites the value of planting forests, boosting energy efficiency and - by 2050 - at least tripling the share of energy from zero-carbon sources such as nuclear, solar and wind.

Scientists analyzed about 1200 different scenarios from scientific literature, which were generated by 31 modelling teams around the world to explore the economic, technological and institutional prerequisites and implications of mitigation pathways with different degrees of ambition.

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Edenhofer said. “All of these require substantial investments. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs.”

The Working Group III report, entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, is the third of three Working Group reports, which, along with a Synthesis Report due in October 2014, constitute the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report on climate change. This latest report was written by 235 scientists from 57 countries, and serves as a potential road map for policymakers who plan to meet in Paris next year to negotiate a new climate treaty.

The report notes that land is a key component for the 2°C goal. Slowing deforestation and planting forests have stopped or even reversed the increase in emissions from land use. Through afforestation, land could be used to draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This could also be achieved by combining electricity production from biomass and carbon dioxide capture and storage. However, as of today this combination is not available at scale - with not even one commercial plant tested at an industrial scale. At the same time, permanent underground carbon dioxide storage faces challenges and the risks of increased competition for land need to be managed, the working group notes.

"The newest IPCC report shows a wide range of options to cut carbon pollution, including the use cost-effective clean energy. The longer we wait to act, the harder and more expensive it will be,” noted Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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