Guess who’s to blame for global warming? You! And if we don’t do anything about it soon, temperatures may rise by as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, reported a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Droughts, heat waves, arctic ice breaking up, floods, dry areas becoming dryer, wet areas become wetter, smog warnings in winter – the scientific debate is over. We are to blame.
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea levels,” the IPCC said in a summary of the lengthy report.
The report, entitled ‘Climate Change 2007’, also known as the Fourth Assessment Report, was made public after a four-day meeting of IPCC scientists in Paris, France.
The report didn’t say anything more than what we already knew. Eleven of the past 12 years rank among the warmest years on record of global temperatures, and the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is primarily due to the use of fossil fuels, while those of methane and nitrous oxide were primarily due to agriculture. What’s new is where the blame is placed, and the report states unequivocally that we are to blame The menace will “continue for centuries if we don’t take action now.”
The statements are the strongest yet from the IPCC, panel that consists of more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries. The group’s last assessment was in 2001.
Feb. 2 “will perhaps be remembered as the day the question mark was removed behind the debate over whether climate change has anything to do with human activity on this planet,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Program, at a press conference in Paris.
The report, released Friday, included a 21-page executive summary of the panel’s findings about the physical science basis of climate change, targeted to policy-makers.
“It is critical that we look at this report. . .as a moment where the focus of attention will shift from whether climate change is linked to human activity, whether the science is sufficient, to what on earth are we going to do about it,” Steiner said. “The public should not sit back and say there’s nothing we can do. But if we continue to risk inaction on the basis of the evidence presented here, we will one day in the history books be considered irresponsible.” The report also warned that continued global warming could eventually lead to an ice-free Arctic. When that happened 125,000 years ago, seas rose between four and six meters. It is looking like a real possibility for the coming century according to the report, but some scientists fear much of that may happen before the end of this century.
Despite the report’s dire outlook, most scientists say the worst disasters like huge sea level rises and the most catastrophic storms and droughts may be avoided if strong action is taken soon. The rest is up to policy-makers.