International Climate Report Underscores Need for Greater Policy Action

Published Sep 27, 2013

WASHINGTON (September 27, 2013)—The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) newest report on the state of climate science is a warning for policymakers, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Alden Meyer, UCS’s strategy and policy director, has attended United Nations climate negotiations for more than 20 years. He said the report demonstrates the need for more ambitious action to achieve policymakers’ stated goals:

“For the fifth time since 1990, the world’s climate scientists have rung the warning bell on climate change. The report issued today documents with greater certainty than ever how climate change is increasing sea levels, affecting extreme weather and changing our planet. Now it's time for our political leaders to respond with the level of urgency and determination that the situation demands. The United States and other countries need to greatly step up their efforts to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases if we’re going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change."

Peter Frumhoff, UCS’s science and policy director and a former IPCC lead author, said the report provides a powerful appraisal of humanity’s impact on Earth’s climate:

“It offers a sober snapshot of what climate science is telling us. The latest projections are showing us that even very ambitious emission reductions leave us at risk for exceeding a dangerous 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures. We face the dual challenge of dealing with the effects of warming we’re already locking in while also reducing the emissions that are further disrupting our climate.”

In a blog post, Dr. Frumhoff has put the IPCC’s climate projections in context to account for the full scope of human-driven warming and to connect the IPCC’s findings directly to the climate policy commitments that President Obama and other world leaders made in Copenhagen in 2009.

Finally, some speculation on the contents of the report has focused on a “speed bump” in the rate of surface warming over the past several years. As the report notes, picking different starting years for calculating surface temperature trends can be misleading. In another blog post, UCS climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel shows how global warming is accelerating, which suggests that terms such as “hiatus” and “pause” fail to accurately describe recent trends.