skip to content

Sustainability

7 things to know about the new UN climate change report

By Ilissa Ocko

Published on October 1, 2013 on GreenBiz.com

Source URL:  http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/10/01/7-things-know-about-new-un-climate-change-report

“On Friday, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report – the fifth since the IPCC’s creation in 1988 – on the science of climate change.

These reports, published every five to seven years, are the work of several hundred scientists from around the world who summarize the current understanding of all aspects of climate change research. Thousands of other scientists review the summary, after which the IPCC publishes a comprehensive report, which synthesize findings from thousands of research studies.

Almost 200 countries are involved in the process. The IPCC also publishes reports that provide potential options for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The creators of the fourth IPCC report collectively were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Here are seven key findings from the new IPCC report on the state of the science of climate change:

1. It is virtually certain that the planet has warmed since the mid-2oth century.

At the surface, each of the last three decades has been progressively warmer than the preceding decades since 1850. The rate of sea level rise has been higher than any average rate during the previous 2,000 years, and in the last two decades, ice sheets have been losing mass. Almost all glaciers are shrinking, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere snow cover have decreased in extent.

2. Scientists are more confident than ever that humans are responsible.

With every report it has become clearer that the Earth is warming and that human activity is responsible. Scientists are now more than 95 percent certain that humas are the principle cause of climate change, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. That’s up from more than 90 percent in 2007, 66 percent in 2001 and 50 percent in 1995.

3. Further warming is imminent, and short-term records do not reflect long-term climate trends.

Natural internal variability of the climate system, due to the El Nino effect, volcanic eruptions and other influences, makes it impossible to determine the overall warming trend of the planet through short-term measurements. For example, the rate of increase in surface warming over the past 15 years, from 1998 to 2012, appears slower because it begins with a record hot year due to a strong El Nino effect. On the other hand, the rates of sea level rise and glacial ice melt have accelerated during this time period. Over the long-term, continuing emissions of heat-trapping gases ineveitably will cause the plante’s surface temeratures to rise.

4. The surface could warm anywhere from 2.7 F to 7.2 F by 2100, relative to pre-1900 conditions.

The warming will be unevenly distributed, with more warming over land and even greater warming at the poles. Temperature increases such as these, even at the lower end, could increase the chances of extreme heat waves, drought and flooding due to heavy rains, and raised sea levels in areas where hundreds of millions of people reside.

5. The melting pace of land ice is accelerating in the Arctic and Antarctica, and sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 if greenouse gas emissions are unchecked.

This could affect major cities, from New York to London to Shanghai. On longer timescales, sea levels could rise by nearly 10 feet over the next several hundred years, and even by more than 20 feet after a millennium if the Greenland ice sheet nearly disappears. However, if governments are able to curb emissions soon, sea levels could rise by slightly less than a foot by the end of the century. Sea level will not be uniform across the world, though, and more than two-thirds of coastlines may experience 20 percent more sea level rise than these globally averaged estimates.

6. The IPCC’s estimates of temperature and sea level rise are conservative.

Hundreds of scientists and representatives from nearly 200 countries have to agree on the precise wording of the IPCC reports, and therefore the reports inherently are conservative in their estimates. The new report is no exception.

7. Weather extremes are expected to change from human influence.

Scientists are virtually certain that there will be more hot and fewer cold days and seasons over most land areas, and it is very likely that heat waves will be more frequent and last longer. Extreme rainfall events over many mid-latitude countries and wet tropical regions are very likely to become more intense and more frequent by 2100. ”

To learn more abou the IPCC’s report visit:  www.ipcc.ch

Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment Document Open for Review

Here’s your opportunity to read and review for yourself carefully documented analysis that assesses the impact of climate change over periods up to the next century. After the open review period, during which the National Acadamies of Science and the general public will be able to review and provide comments on the contents of this 1,000 page document, the Third National Climate Assessment Report will be final and presented to the President and Congress.

The 13 federal government departments supporting this effort are:  Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior, State, Transportation, Health & Human Services, NASA, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian, US AID, Agriculture, and EPA. There are 240 authors presenting detailed review and analysis for this assessment.  

The website to visit to review the document is:  http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/

UW-Green Bay is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) - one of the few programs mentioned in the “Mitigation” chapter of this assessment as having a positive impact.

Timothy White, Chancellor of The California State University and ACUPCC chair, provided the following synopsis of the Report Findings:

1. Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of this past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels. U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, rising temperatures are not evenly distributed across the country or over time (Ch. 2).

2. Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities. Changes in extreme events are the primary way in which  most people experience climate change. Human-induced climate change has already increased the frequency and intensity of some extremes. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen an increase in prolonged stretches of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, and in some regions more severe droughts (Ch. 2, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23).

3. Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase. Heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate-related impacts over the next few decades. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, now and in the future (Ch. 2, 27).

4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond. Climate change is already affecting human health, infrastructure, water resources, agriculture, energy, the natural environment, and other factors – locally, nationally, and internationally. Climate change interacts with other environmental and societal factors in a variety of ways that either moderate or exacerbate the ultimate impacts. The types and magnitudes of these effects vary across the nation and through time. Several populations – including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people -  are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change. There is mounting evidence that the costs to the nation are already high and will increase very substantially in the future, unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are strongly reduced (Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increase extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and threats to mental health. Climate change is increasing the risks of heat stress, respiratory stress from poor air quality, and the spread of waterborne diseases. Food security is emerging as an issue of concern, both within the U.S. and across the globe, and is affected by climate change. Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are also increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of unfamiliar health threats (Ch. 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23).

6. Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat. Sea level rise and storm surges, in combination with the pattern of heavy development in coastal areas, are already resulting in damage to infrastructure such as roads, buildings, prots, and energy facilities. Infrastructure associated with military installations is also at risk from climate change impacts. Floods along the nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours, prolonged rains and rapid melting of snowpack are damaging infrastructure in towns and cities, farmlands, and a variety of other places across the nation. Extreme heat is damaging transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, and airport runways. Rapid warming in Alaska has resulted in infrastructure impacts due to thawing of permafrost and the loss of coastal sea ice that once protected shorelines from storms and wave-driven coastal erosion (Ch. 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25).

7. Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai’i. Surface and groundwater supplies in many regions are already stressed by increasing demand for water as well as declining runoff and groundwater recharge. In many regions, climate change increases the likelihood of water shortages and competitions for water amount agricultural, municipal, and environmental uses. The western U.W. relies heavily on mountain snowpack for water storage, and spring snowpack is declining in most of the West. There is an increasing risk of seasonal water shortages in many parts of the U.S., even where total precipitation is projected to increase. Water quality challenges are also increasing, particularly sediment and contaminant concentrations after heavy downpours (Ch. 2, 3, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23).

8. Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world. Near-term resilience of U.S. agriculture is enhanced by adaptive actions, including expansion of irrigated acreage in response to drought, regional shifts in crops and cropped acreage, continued technological advancements, and other adjustments. By mid-century, however, when temperature increases and precipitation extremes are further intensified, yields of major U.S. crops are expected to decline, threatening both U.S. and international food security. The U.S. food system also depends on imports, so food security and commodity pricing will be affected by agricultural adaptation to climate changes and other conditions around the world (Ch. 2, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19).

9. Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished. In addition to climate changes that directly affect habitats, events such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and pest outbreaks associated with climate change are already disrupting ecosystem structures and functions in a variety of direct and indirect ways. These changes limit the capacity of ecosystems such as forests, barrier beaches, and coastal-and freshwater wetlands to adapt and continue to play important roles in reducing the impacts of these extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources (Ch. 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 25).

10. Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic. Warming ocean waters and ocean acidification across the globe and within U.S. marine territories are broadly affecting marine life. Warmer and more acidic waters are changing the distribution of fish and other mobile sea life, and stressing those, such as corals, that cannot move. Warmer and more acidic ocean waters combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to negatively affect marine-based food production and fishing communities (Ch. 2, 23, 24, 25).

11. Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) in increasing, but progress with implementation is limited. In recent years, climate adaptation and mitigation activities have begun to emerge in many sectors and at all levels of government; however barriers to implementation of these activities are significant. The level of current efforts is insufficient to avoid increasingly serious impacts of climate change that have large social, environmental, and economic consequences. Well-planned and implemented actions to limit emissions and increase resilience to impacts that are unavoidable can improve public health, economic development opportunities, natural system protection, and overall quality of life (Ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 26, 27, 28).

Don’t Forget: Take the Commuting Survey by Nov. 2nd

You’ve got a few more days to provide your input! How we commute to campus appears to be a significant ‘chunk’ of our overall campuswide greenhouse gas emissions, contributing approximately 27% of our total emissions.  For comparison purposes, our greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning natural gas to heat the entire campus for a year’s period is 19% of our total emissions (FY2012 data). However, our commuting emissions are based on older data and that’s where we need your help!

Please take this short survey to update our data set. In addition, please provide feedback on Zimride, the ridesharing/commuting website that helps you find a ride to share with someone else – commuting or one-way trips (zimride.uwgb.edu).  We are halfway through our contract with Zimride and want to get a sense of participation and usage of the program which targets reducing solo trips in a vehicle, thus reducing emissions.

 Tracking and measuring the impact of “Eco-U” through an annual greenhouse gas inventory helps us better understand our progress and is a requirement of our participation in the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.

 Thank you for taking the time to help us better understand where we’re at in working to make Eco-U greener.

 UWGB Sustainability Committee

News Bit: Facebook shares its carbon footprint

Published on GreenBiz.com, by Joel Makower, 8-1-12

“Facebook today revealed for the first time information about its carbon footprint, citing the ‘power of openness.’ The data, covering the energy use for its data centers and global offices, reflects both the company’s efforts to reduce energy use and increase renewable energy consumption, as well as the challenges it faces to steadily improve those efforts.

‘We’re releasing this data because we believe in the power of openness, and because we hope that adding another data point to our collective understanding of our industry’s environmental impact will help us all keep improving,’ the company said in a statement.

At first glance it’s a happy story. The company said that last year, its data centers and operations used 532 million kilowatt hours of energy, emitting 285,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. By contrast, Google revealed last year that its carbon footprint equaled nearly 1.5 million metric tons, more than five times Facebook’s. (Google’s ‘energy czar’ at the time was Bill Weihl, who now serves as Facebook’s ‘sustainability guru.’)

For the typical Facebook user, a year’s worth of liking and posting consumes just 269 grams of carbon equivalent – ‘roughly the same carbon footprint as one medium latte,’ the company pointed out. ‘Or three large bananas. Or a couple of glasses of wine.’ To put that in perspective, a typical U.S. household’s annual carbon footprint is about 48 tons, according to the Cool Climate Network at the University of California, Berkeley. Suffice to say, that’s a helluva lot of lattes.

But Facebook is quick to note that ‘as a fast-growing company our carbon footprint and energy mix may get worse before they get better.’ That’s due primarily to the challenges of sourcing sufficient clean power where the company sites its data centers. Facebook’s goal is to source 25 percent of its power from clean-energy sources by 2015, which is only a tad better than the 23 percent of ‘clean and renewable’ energy the company now uses. Still, according to Facebook, achieving 25 percent ‘is going to be a stretch for us, and we’re still figuring out exactly what it will take to get there.’

To read more about Facebook’s efforts, activist pressures on the company, and what they’re doing 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, CLICK HERE.

News Bits: Cow Burps and Other Emissions

White Wave Looks to the Farm to Improve Environmental Footprint
“Of all the various sources of greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most little-known to the average consumer may be those from the wide-eyed cow and its environs.

“Some estimate that dairy industry emissions, including those from cow burps and manure, are responsible for about 2 percent of total emissions in the U.S. For some firms like White Wave Food Company, those dairy emissions account for a significant slice of their carbon footprints.

“White Wave, the Broomfiled, Colo.-based maker of Silk, Horizon Organic, International Delight and Land O Lakes, has been targeting its dairy carbon footprint for years. Between 2006 and 2010, the company cut its emissions 16 percent per gallon of product, exceeding its 10 percent goal for the time period.”

What to learn how … read more HERE.
Source:  GreenBiz.com