By Doyle Rice
10 November 2014
(USA TODAY) – In the battle to combat global warming, the world isn't moving fast enough to stay in the fight.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which releases a new report every few years — again gave grim news last week as emissions rose 2.3% to a record in 2013, marking the largest year-to-year change in three decades.
"We're about at a 3" on a scale of 0 to 10 in reducing emissions that cause global warming, said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University geoscientist and contributing author of an international report out earlier this week that warned of "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage if nations fail to corral greenhouse gases.
Meanwhile, Earth is also on target for its hottest year ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as reaching the highest level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in at least 800,000 years. And in the U.S., emissions rose 2.9% in the past year — after several years of declines.
"The pace and scale (of efforts to fight warming) needs to increase dramatically," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research organization in Washington, D.C. "It is clear that despite all current efforts, much more action is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."
Perhaps most stunning in this year's IPCC report was scientists' certainty that humans are behind the warming: 95%. Previous reports by the group didn't provide such harsh language to describe future consequences or such high confidence about humanity's role.
The report's conclusions come despite steps by countries all over the globe to reduce emissions. Last month, the 28-nation European Union agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The move made the EU the first major economy to set post-2020 emissions targets ahead of the global climate pact that's slated to be adopted at a U.N. conference next year in Paris. […]
"The prospects for limiting warming to 3.6 degrees F are becoming vanishingly small," according to a commentary by the Union of Concerned Scientists published earlier this year in the journal Nature: Climate Change.
In its report, the IPCC states the goal would be achievable only if the world cuts greenhouse emissions to near or below zero by 2100, which could be unrealistic given the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. [more]