Climate change: IPCC report supports EU goal of limiting global warming to 2C
European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said today's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report provides further backing for the European Union's objective of limiting global warming to no more than 2 Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature. The report, drawn up by a working group comprising many of the world's leading climate scientists, shows that climate change is already having widespread effects for instance on people, ecosystems and water resources.These will become stronger the higher the temperature rises. Stabilising the global temperature increase at no more than 2C above the pre-industrial level is expected to prevent irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in the global climate, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, but it would not avert all impacts.
"Today's IPCC report spells out very clearly the severe effects that climate change will have on all of us. "It shows many of the serious impacts that would occur if global warming exceeded the EU's target of not more than 2C above the pre-industrial level. The temperature today is already almost 0.8C above that level, so the world needs to act fast if we are to succeed in stabilising climate change and thereby prevent its worst impacts. Before the summer I intend to launch a Green Paper on adaptation to climate change in order to focus attention on areas where this is most needed."
The IPCC Working Group II report, Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, assesses the latest scientific knowledge on the impacts of climate change on natural, managed and human systems, their capacity to adapt and their vulnerability. It constitutes the second of three parts of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. It confirms the main findings of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) from 2001, but there is much new knowledge from new observations and improved modelling.
Its key conclusions include the following:
- Recent climate change is already having strong effects on ecosystems, water resources and coastal zones across the world. Some observed impacts are occurring at a faster rate than previously anticipated. Humans are also being affected through e.g. increased water stress, excess mortality during heatwaves, changes in the distribution of vector-borne diseases, limitations to mountain sports, threats to indigenous livelihoods and increased risk of forest fires.
- Many observed effects of recent climate change can now be attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions.
- Future climate change will increase drought and flood risks in many regions, decrease water resources in many semi-arid and arid areas, threaten the viability of many coastal settlements around the globe, cause widespread extinctions of biological species, decrease crop yields in most tropical regions, and increase the risk of hunger.
- Global warming of more than 2C above current levels will result in widespread loss of biodiversity, decreasing global agricultural productivity, and a commitment to widespread melting of the Greenland ice sheets, which would raise sea levels by 4-6 meters eventually.
- Recent climate change in Europe has had wide-ranging impacts on natural and managed ecosystems, on glaciers, and on human health.
- Future climate change will generally magnify existing regional differences in Europe's natural resources. It will increase most climate-related hazards, including winter floods and coastal floods in maritime regions, snowmelt floods in central and eastern Europe, flash floods throughout Europe, and forest fires in southern Europe. It will significantly increase water stress in central and southern Europe, increase climate-related health risks from heatwaves and flooding, have substantial adverse effects on biodiversity, and pose challenges to many economic sectors in Europe, including agriculture, forestry, tourism, and energy production.
- Mitigation through emission reductions can reduce or delay most impacts of climate change in the medium and long term. Both mitigation and adaptation to climate change are necessary to avoid major negative impacts of climate change. However, climate change will have significant impacts even with a combination of aggressive mitigation and adaptation.
The EU has put in place an ambitious programme of actions to fight climate change. More than 30 policies and measures have been implemented at EU level through the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP), set up by the Commission in 2000. In January 2007, the Commission presented a package of further measures to address the future challenges of climate change post-2012. This package was fully endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the March European Council.
The IPCC assesses the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for understanding the risk of man-made climate change. It brings together leading experts from around the world. Its reports represent the most authoritative global scientific consensus on climate change.
Further information at www.ipcc.ch