The world’s top scientists issued a formal warning on Friday via the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the evidence of climate change is “unequivocal,” and it’s “extremely likely” that humans are the direct cause of that. For the first time, the panel of top scientists suggested a carbon budget to keep temperature increases to manageable levels.
The IPCC released its last report six years ago, and since then, the group’s level of certainty that humans bear direct responsibility for the planet’s warming oceans and melting glaciers has risen from 90 percent to 95 percent.
The report is the first in what will be a five-part series; this one established the scientific basis of climate change and offered numerous examples of observable changes in the earth’s climate that it says are attributable to greenhouse gasses. To help spearhead an international response to the report, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene a Climate Summit in September 2014 for global leaders from government, business, finance, civil society, and academia, said a U.N. press release. Future installations of the report series will offer climate-change-tackling suggestions to policy makers.
The panel took a new step in putting forth a number on the amount of carbon dioxide humans can safely afford to burn (and release through deforestation): one trillion metric tons of carbon. At the current rate of fossil fuel consumption, humanity will blow through that limit in around 2040, reports the New York Times.
The Times also reports that the Obama administration could soon institute rules that would require heavy burners of carbon dioxide to use technology that stores the gasses underground.
The report cautioned against another type of technology: “geoengineering,” the last-ditch effort to alter the climate to counter unsavory changes, through means like solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). “Modeling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise, but they would also modify the global water cycle, and would not reduce ocean acidification,” the report’s authors write. They add: “CRD and SRM methods carry side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale.”
For more information about the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, click here
To access the report’s official summary for policy makers, click here
To read the New York Times article cited in this story, click here