The Slatest

Window of Opportunity to Act on Climate Change “is Closing Fast”

From left, Peruvian Environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, and IPCC secretary Renate Christ give a press conference to present the AR5 Synthesis Report in Copenhagen on Sunday.

Photo by Niels Ahlmann Olesen/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. panel on climate change is not mincing words. The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of the current situation has no real surprises considering it is essentially a summary of previous reports. What it does have is some stark language that warns time is running out. The IPCC report amounts to a “final warning” about the dangers of failing to act on climate change, notes the Independent.

At this point, action has to mean cutting greenhouse gas emmissions to zero by 2100, a goal that, for now at least, seems far-fetched. Unless there is an unprecedented effort to cut emissions, then the planet is clearly headed toward “irreversible” changes to the climate. But even if emissions are cut to zero, some of the effects of climate change “will continue for centuries.” The Washington Post explains what’s at stake:

The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.

“The window of opportunity for acting in a cost-effective way—or in an effective way—is closing fast,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University geosciences professor and contributing author to the report.

The 40-page report that summarizes 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists claims the effects of global warming are already evident. “Climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” notes the IPCC. The debate about climate change should be closed. The hundreds of authors that were involved in the study are “even more certain than before that the planet is warming and humans are the cause,” notes CNN. That was the message U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wanted to get across: “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side.” Secretary of State John Kerry characterized the report as “another canary in the coal mine” that shows why “ambitious decisive and immediate action” is needed.

Read the report here.