A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a somewhat positive message for policymakers and the world in general. The report states that it is not too late to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change.
While the new UN report can be seen in an optimistic light, climate experts are advised that time is dangerously running out. In order to avoid taking the full brunt of the negative effects that climate change is predicted to bring about, a combined global effort that is expected to take the better part of 15 years will be needed.
"Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions," said [pdf] Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the IPCC's Working Group III co-chairs.. "There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual."
To contain the worst effects of climate change, governments will work together to strictly limit, reduce and monitor carbon emissions. The climate experts from the IPCC's Working Group III say that greenhouse gas emissions around the world need to be reduced by approximately 40 t 70 percent compared to the emissions recorded in the year 2010 to even get a chance at avoiding the predicted 2 degree rise in global temperatures. Moreover, the scenario also assumes that global greenhouse gas emissions will be near-zero by the end of the century.
"Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal," said Edenhoffer. "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."
One of the main barriers to bringing down greenhouse gas emissions is the financial costs required for such an endeavor. Moreover, almost every single industry in every country will be affected by any proposed mitigations. Both cities and industries will also need to review and reformulate strategies to make the most efficient use out of available energy sources.
"Reducing energy use would give us more flexibility in the choice of low-carbon energy technologies, now and in the future. It can also increase the cost-effectiveness of mitigation measures," said Ramón Pichs- Madruga, the second of Working Group III's three co-chairs. "Since publication of the Fourth Assessment Report there has been a focus on climate policies designed to increase co-benefits and reduce adverse side-effects."
Another important factor that needs to be addressed to combat climate change is land use. In order to avoid the predicted 2°C rise in global temperatures, large scale afforestation will also be needed. Restoring and increasing available lands for forests will help remove a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere.
"The core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from the growth of economies and population," said Youba Sokona, Working Group III's third and final co-chair. "Through providing energy access and reducing local air pollution, many mitigation measures can contribute to sustainable development."
Since the 1880s, global temperatures have already risen by around 0.08°C says the IPCC. Unless stringent and persistent changes are made, the number will continue to rise in the near future
"Climate change is a global commons problem," said Edenhofer. "International cooperation is key for achieving mitigation goals. Putting in place the international institutions needed for cooperation is a challenge in itself."