Global warning

Over the years, the IPCC reports have not made a dent on the fossil fuel industry.


Rina Saeed Khan October 22, 2013
The writer is an award-winning environmental journalist based in Lahore. She holds an MA in Environment and Development from The School of Oriental and African Studies in London

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report tells us, in no uncertain terms, that climate change is happening because of mankind.

There is no question today that we need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions drastically and urgently. The earth had the capacity to absorb these emissions (from fuel emissions and land use changes). But now, we emit far beyond what the earth can clean. Average global temperatures have risen by almost a degree since the pre-industrial era. The limit agreed by most of the world under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a safety point is two degrees Celsius, beyond which global warming could cause irreversible damage to the planet. Currently, we are on track for a three to five degrees increase in global temperatures by the year 2100.

The first part of the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC was released at the end of September. The report of Working Group I, which examines the physics of climate change, tells us that: “It is extremely likely (95 per cent confidence) that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951-2010.”

The report has also underlined the urgency of climate change by stating: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented … The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

The IPCC does not conduct its own research — its global panel of scientists reviews the latest research and then puts it out in the form of reports that have proven to be very influential. The first assessment report was completed in 1990 and served as the basis of the UNFCCC that was signed at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It forecast the concentration of carbon dioxide doubling between 1990 and 2025. The IPCC’s second assessment report in 1997, which somewhat lowered the impacts of climate change, led to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

The third assessment report, which came out in 2001, acknowledged that the second report’s estimations were too low and the scientists revised their figures upwards but by then, the US had walked out of the Kyoto Protocol. The fourth assessment report came out in 2007 and won the Nobel Prize for warning the world of the impacts of climate change. The report led to the Bali Action Plan, which called for the signing of an ambitious climate deal by 2009 in Copenhagen.

Over the years, the IPCC reports have not made a dent on the fossil fuel industry, which is determined not to allow trillions of dollars of untapped coal, oil and gas reserves to remain underground. The IPCC states the scientific evidence but it does not recommend a course of action. For that, we all have to wait for the UN Climate Change Conference 2015, to be held in Paris, when the world will have to come to some sort of deal; we are already running out of time.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2013.

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COMMENTS (5)

Rex Minor | 8 years ago | Reply

It is good to read Miss Khan's article on GLOBAL WARMING not GLOBAL WARNING, and the activities of the international bodies. What surprises me is the lack of apparent public awareness of the subject as reflected in the bloggers comments and the absense of the consequences of the global warming for the south east Asian region.

The melting Himalaya glaciers and the gigantic Indusrial growth across the Himalayas in mainland China which is the biggest pollutor from the emerging markets, is poised to create the greatest disaster of biblical size which is known to the Indian scientists as well as their Government. Against this background Indian Government have completed the 3000 kM security barier of barbed wire with 24hrs military watch separating the people of Bangla Desh on the flat land fully exposed to the flood havoc once it rolls out of the Himlayas. According to the Indian scientists 100 million Bengalis will disappear in flood water. May I suggest that Miss Khan travel to the Kashmir capital of sirinagar as well as to the Chinese across the Himlayas and ask its Government what precautions it has in the even of the glaciers complete melt down. I would definitely look forward to her next article.

Rex Minor

A Questioning Mind | 8 years ago | Reply

In a country where we endorse a water fuelled car, do not expect a detailed scientific analysis of climate change any time soon.

There are many contributory causes of climate change and many detrimental effects. The one major cause of climate change and increase in CO2 to a record level of 400ppm is still not taken seriously.

Once upon a time, this planet had the most efficient climate control mechanism which had evolved over many tens of thousands of years. Then man started to dismantle it. Until the early 1900’s man had little effect on the worlds’ weather. Then came the industrial revolution and human population explosion which started the retrogression of our climate control mechanism. The accelerated pillage of the natural resources to fuel consumer demand for ever increasing short life consumable goods and the invention of credit by those controlling the world’s banks ensured an increased destruction of the natural world.

So how has this accelerated climate change? Destruction of increasing areas of the world’s forests.

The wonderful thing about forest is that forests are wonderful things. They bounce the water around us from earth to tree to cloud. But cut them down in the tropics and the heavily saturated ‘rainforest clouds’ rise up on warm air currents from the surface of newly cleared bare land absorbing greater solar energy from the sun, allowing these clouds to be carried away from the tropics to dump their load south and north of tropical areas where...surprise, surprise we have also cleared the majority of trees which used to cover the majority of the surface of our planet. Trees are natures’ natural dam....they can soak up their own weight in water and release this moisture during dry hot periods ensuring steady flows of potable water for fauna and flora and us in the drier seasons. The natural hydrological cycle in the tropics is exponentially every year and yet we do not appear to have linked this simple fact to the changes in climate the planet is currently facing.

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