UN report says climate change threatens ‘irreversible’ impacts

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2014 - Humans are having a “clear and growing” influence on climate change, which, if left unchecked, could lead to “pervasive and irreversible impacts” for people and ecosystems, according to a United Nations report.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), however, said options are available to adapt to climate change, and implementing stringent mitigation activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range.

According to a press release from the panel, the report confirms that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is obvious. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

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“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of one of three IPCC working groups that helped write the report.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that if the world maintains its “business as usual” attitude about climate change, the opportunity to keep temperature rise below the internationally target of 2 degrees Celsius “will slip away within the next decade.”

“Time is not on our side…leaders must act,” the UN chief declared during a press conference in Copenhagen, where the report -- the final installment of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report -- was released. The report synthesized the work of over 800 scientists, parts of which were released over the past 13 months.

R.K. Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, said the world has the means to limit climate change and that the solutions can allow for continued economic and human development.

“All we need is the will to change, which will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change,” he said. But he said addressing the issue will not be possible “if individual agents advance their own interests independently.

“It can only be achieved through cooperative responses, including international cooperation,” he said.

In the U.S., Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the report provides a scientific foundation to address climate change, utilize clean energy and grow the economy.

The world's top scientists are telling members of Congress and policy makers around the globe that we cannot just try to adapt to climate change,” Boxer said in a news release. “Instead we must act now to reduce dangerous carbon pollution or it will it lead to irreversible impacts for human health, food and water supplies, and vital infrastructure.

I will continue to support the President's Climate Action Plan, which puts our nation on the path of significantly reducing carbon emissions,” Boxer said. “I will also work with my colleagues to put an appropriate price on carbon which is the most effective way to avert disastrous climate change.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, had no immediate comment on the UN report. However, in an editorial in The Hill in September, he repeated his contention that science does not back up what many activists have said about climate change. He vowed to continue to fight President Obama's “economy-crushing domestic greenhouse gas regulations.” He said Obama was “doubling down on global warming policies that have already demonstrated that they do more harm than good.”

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