November 2, 2014 – Copenhagen, Denmark: One month after unprecedented numbers of people took to the streets calling for more climate action as part of the Peoples’ Climate Marches, the world’s peak body of climate scientists has issued its starkest warning yet about the choice facing humanity.
The people have spoken, businesses demand action, investors want long term certainty and science could not send a clearer signal than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report.
With the release of the final installment of the report – ending a five year process covering 30,000 pieces of evidence and involving over 2000 scientists – the baton has now been handed to governments who need to scale up the ongoing transition from dirty to clean energy and deliver the new, global climate agreement due in Paris next year.
Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative, said the world’s best scientists have given us a good, clear measuring stick for what the world needs to do to combat rampant climate change.
“It’s easy to look at what science requires and be overwhelmed,” Smith said. “But what the IPCC is really telling us is that we have an historic opportunity to secure a clean, just and safer future for the world and the people that live in it.”
The report confirms the experience of many vulnerable communities around the world: impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, ice melt and ocean acidification, are hitting home much faster than previously thought.
Though there is a pressing need to boost support to make communities more resilient to these impacts, Harjeet Singh, International Coordinator Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Adaptation for ActionAid International, said the IPCC warns that there are limits to adaptation.
“This means that in some cases floods, cyclones, sea-level rise and drought will be so extreme that people can no longer cope with them,” Singh said.
“That is why developing countries have been demanding meaningful ways to support those communities battered by the climate change impacts that they have not even caused.”
To avoid the worst impacts, the IPCC spells out the need to phase out carbon pollution entirely in favour of a scaling up of the transition to clean energy. The report says switching our investments to renewable energy in the next few decades will be cheaper than paying a rapidly growing bill for "severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.”
Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace climate policy advisor said there had been a huge breakthrough in the affordability and effectiveness of renewable energy as well as technologies for smart energy use since the last IPCC report in 2007.
“Let’s face it – the science is in and it’s game over for fossil fuels,” Kosonen said. “The IPCC spells out the benefits of scaling up the transition to renewable energy, such as affordability, better public health and more jobs.”
“What started with a decade of coal will be known as the century of renewables -economics and co-benefits are on their side, while the opposite is true for nuclear and carbon capture and storage,” she said.
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists said early next year, governments must put forward their climate action commitments towards an international agreement to limit climate change due to be signed in Paris, in December 2015. That agreement must signal a collective decision by society to end the fossil fuel age and to embrace the dawning renewable energy era.
“The world's scientists could not have made it clearer: to avoid truly devastating climate impacts, we must move rapidly to phase out our use of polluting fossil fuels,” Meyer said.
“Political leaders now face a choice: they can either put policies in place to achieve this essential shift, or they can spend the rest of their careers dealing with climate disaster after climate disaster,” he said.
Contact: Ria Voorhaar, +49 157 317 355 68, rvooorhaar @ climatenetwork.org
Audio available on request