Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report
Key Passages:Observed Changes; Causes of Change, Projected Change and Its Impacts, Greenland Ice Sheet and Sea Level Rise, Adaptation and Mitigation Options, The Long-Term Perspective; Reasons for Concern
Observed Changes; Causes of Change
"Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases."
"Of the more than 29,000 observational data series, from 75 studies, that show significant change in many physical and biological systems, more than 89% are consistent with the direction of change expected as a response to warming."
"Advances since the TAR [Third Assessment Report] show that discernible human influences extend beyond average temperature to other aspects of climate.
"Human influences have:
- very likely contributed to sea level rise during the latter half of the 20th century
- likely contributed to changes in wind patterns, affecting extra-tropical storm tracks and temperature patterns
- likely increased temperatures of extreme hot nights, cold nights and cold days
- more likely than not increased risk of heat waves, area affected by drought since the 1970s and frequency of heavy precipitation events."
Projected Change and Its Impacts
"There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades."
"Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century."
"Some systems, sectors and regions are likely to be especially affected by climate change.
- terrestrial: tundra, boreal forest and mountain regions because of sensitivity to warming; mediterranean-type ecosystems because of reduction in rainfall; and tropical rainforests where precipitation declines
- coastal: mangroves and salt marshes, due to multiple stresses
- marine: coral reefs due to multiple stresses; the sea ice biome because of sensitivity to warming
- water resources in some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the dry tropics, due to changes in rainfall and evapotranspiration, and in areas dependent on snow and ice melt
- agriculture in low-latitudes , due to reduced water availability
- low-lying coastal systems, due to threat of sea level rise and increased risk from extreme weather events
- human health in populations with low adaptive capacity.
- the Arctic, because of the impacts of high rates of projected warming on natural systems and human communities
- Africa, because of low adaptive capacity and projected climate change impacts
- small islands, where there is high exposure of population and infrastructure to projected climate change impacts
- Asian and African megadeltas, due to large populations and high exposure to sea level rise, storm surges and river flooding."
"Within other areas, even those with high incomes, some people (such as the poor, young children, and the elderly) can be particularly at risk, and also some areas and some activities."
"Altered frequencies and intensities of extreme weather, together with sea level rise, are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems."
Greenland Ice Sheet and Sea Level Rise
"Contraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100. Current models suggest virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m if global average warming were sustained for millennia in excess of 1.9 to 4.6°C relative to pre-industrial values. The corresponding future temperatures in Greenland are comparable to those inferred for the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago, when paleoclimatic information suggests reductions of polar land ice extent and 4 to 6 m of sea level rise."
"Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and gain mass due to increased snowfall. However, net loss of ice mass could occur if dynamical ice discharge dominates the ice sheet mass balance."
"Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change."
"Climate change is likely to lead to some irreversible impacts. There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5°C (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe."
Adaptation and Mitigation Options
"A wide array of adaptation options is available, but more extensive adaptation than is currently occurring is required to reduce vulnerability to climate change."
"Societies have a long record of managing the impacts of weather- and climate-related events. Nevertheless, additional adaptation measures will be required to reduce the adverse impacts of projected climate change and variability, regardless of the scale of mitigation undertaken over the next two to three decades. Moreover, vulnerability to climate change can be exacerbated by other stresses. These arise from, for example, current climate hazards, poverty and unequal access to resources, food insecurity, trends in economic globalisation, conflict and incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS."
"There is high confidence that there are viable adaptation options that can be implemented in some sectors at low cost, and/or with high benefit-cost ratios. However, comprehensive estimates of global costs and benefits of adaptation are limited."
"Future energy infrastructure investment decisions, expected to exceed 20 trillion US$ between 2005 and 2030, will have long-term impacts on GHG emissions, because of the long life-times of energy plants and other infrastructure capital stock. The widespread diffusion of low-carbon technologies may take many decades, even if early investments in these technologies are made attractive. Initial estimates show that returning global energy-related CO2 emissions to 2005 levels by 2030 would require a large shift in investment patterns, although the net additional investment required ranges from negligible to 5-10%."
"A wide variety of policies and instruments are available to governments to create the incentives for mitigation action. Their applicability depends on national circumstances and sectoral context. They include integrating climate policies in wider development policies, regulations and standards, taxes and charges, tradable permits, financial incentives, voluntary agreements, information instruments, and research, development and demonstration."
"An effective carbon-price signal could realise significant mitigation potential in all sectors. Modelling studies show global carbon prices rising to 20-80 US$/tCO2-eq by 2030 are consistent with stabilisation at around 550 ppm CO2-eq by 2100. For the same stabilisation level, induced technological change may lower these price ranges to 5-65 US$/tCO2-eq in 2030."
"Many options for reducing global GHG emissions through international cooperation exist. There is high agreement and much evidence that notable achievements of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are the establishment of a global response to climate change, stimulation of an array of national policies, and the creation of an international carbon market and new institutional mechanisms that may provide the foundation for future mitigation efforts."
"Making development more sustainable can enhance mitigative and adaptive capacities, reduce emissions, and reduce vulnerability, but there may be barriers to implementation. On the other hand, it is very likely that climate change can slow the pace of progress towards sustainable development. Over the next half-century, climate change could impede achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."
The Long-Term Perspective; Reasons for Concern
"Determining what constitutes 'dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system' in relation to Article 2 of the UNFCCC involves value judgements. Science can support informed decisions on this issue, including by providing criteria for judging which vulnerabilities might be labelled 'key.'"
"Key vulnerabilities may be associated with many climate sensitive systems including food supply, infrastructure, health, water resources, coastal systems, ecosystems, global biogeochemical cycles, ice sheets, and modes of oceanic and atmospheric circulation."
"The five 'reasons for concern' identified in the TAR remain a viable framework to consider key vulnerabilities.
- Risks to unique and threatened systems. There is new and stronger evidence of observed impacts of climate change on unique and vulnerable systems (such as polar and high mountain communities and ecosystems), with increasing levels of adverse impacts as temperatures increase further."
- Risks of extreme weather events. Responses to some recent extreme events reveal higher levels of vulnerability than the TAR. There is now higher confidence in the projected increases in droughts, heatwaves, and floods as well as their adverse impacts.
- Distribution of impacts and vulnerabilities. There are sharp differences across regions and those in the weakest economic position are often the most vulnerable to climate change. There is increasing evidence of greater vulnerability of specific groups such as the poor and elderly in not only developing but also developed countries. Moreover, there is increased evidence that low-latitude and less-developed areas generally face greater risk, for example in dry areas and megadeltas.
- Aggregate impacts. Compared to the TAR, initial net market-based benefits from climate change are projected to peak at a lower magnitude of warming, while damages would be higher for larger magnitudes of warming. The net costs of impacts of increased warming are projected to increase over time.
- Risks of large-scale singularities. There is high confidence that global warming over many centuries would lead to a sea level rise contribution from thermal expansion alone which is projected to be much larger than observed over the 20th century, with loss of coastal area and associated impacts. There is better understanding than in the TAR that the risk of additional contributions to sea level rise from both the Greenland and possibly Antarctic ice sheets may be larger than projected by ice sheet models and could occur on century time scales."
"There is high confidence that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate change impacts; however, they can complement each other and together can significantly reduce the risks of climate change."
"Unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt."
"Many impacts can be reduced, delayed or avoided by mitigation. Mitigation efforts and investments over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels."
"Sea level rise under warming is inevitable. Thermal expansion would continue for many centuries after GHG concentrations have stabilised, for any of the stabilisation levels assessed, causing an eventual sea level rise much larger than projected for the 21st century."
"There is high agreement and much evidence that all stabilisation levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are either currently available or expected to be commercialised in coming decades, assuming appropriate and effective incentives are in place for their development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion and addressing related barriers."
"Without substantial investment flows and effective technology transfer, it may be difficult to achieve emission reduction at a significant scale. Mobilizing financing of incremental costs of low-carbon technologies is important."[top of page]
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