In 2013, the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) completed the review of all the new evidence from peer-reviewed literature on the subject of climate change.
It last did so in 2007 and, at that time, published its Fourth Report: “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis.”
On Sept. 27, 2013, the IPCC released a 36-page “Summary for Policymakers” of its Fifth Report. The summary is free and available online at www.ipcc.ch. In October, the full online version of the report became available; it contained more than 2,000 pages of data, graphs, charts, references and interpretations from the combined efforts of hundreds of climate scientists working in the field.
The IPCC is a consensus document and all 195 nations had to agree with every word in the findings. The summary, in part, is quite clear: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.” The probability of certainty has increased from 66 percent in 2001, to 90 percent in 2007, to 95 percent in 2013.
The summary goes on to state, “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean.” Also, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Two of many climate assessment illustrations from the IPCC Report highlight the findings. The bar chart summarizes the average temperatures for each of the past 16 decades for which actual thermometer data are available. It is labeled “Average global surface temperature, with confidence range.” The data clearly shows each of the past three decades is warmer than the proceeding one.
The second illustration is titled “27 Years of Above-Average Temperatures.” The individual bars represent a year for each of the past 60 years. Again, the data clearly shows the upward global temperature trend since the 1950s.
There are more data and conclusions in the report; they include rising carbon emissions anticipated as developing countries use more energy, rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, increasing ocean acidification, reduction in snow cover, more extreme weather events, reduction of global ice mass and extent, and so on. All of these trends are supported by data with references.
More reports are coming forward about serious and significant attempts to address these climate issues. They all discuss ways to reduce the emissions of GHGs and to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Country leaders in this effort include Germany, England, Denmark and others that are pursuing renewable energy programs to make them carbon neutral by about 2050. Some states such as Iowa, California, New York and several others all have targets to have renewables meet up to 20 percent or more of their energy needs over the next few decades.
Indeed, the town of Sebastopol in California now requires in its building code that all new homes incorporate renewable energy built into the structure.
The Energy Information Agency (EIA) recently released the graph shown here titled “U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 1950-2012.”
The story is compelling. The reduction of this particular GHG in recent years is significant. While some of this is probably due to the “Great Recession,” other contributors include significant solar and wind installations, a decrease in coal-burning energy sources, a gain in market share of hybrids, EVs (electric vehicles) and smaller fuel efficient vehicles, among others.
Enormous changes are occurring in the area of electricity generation, a major source of GHGs. The graph labeled “Cumulative Installed Wind Power Capacity in the United States, 1980-2012” tells a powerful story of change. It was produced by Earth Policy Institute.
Wind derived energy was virtually nil in 1980, and even as late as 2000 was only about 2,500 megawatts. By 2010, however, wind capacity of 60,000 megawatts of electrical energy was installed, and by end of 2013 the total will be significantly higher. That is a factor of almost 25 times in just 12 years.
Most of this installed capacity was done without any national policy or encouragement. Fossil fuel subsidies still exceed by a wide margin any subsidies for renewable energy.
More to come.
The scientific career of Raymond N. Johnson, Ph.D., spanned 30 years in research and development as an organic/analytical chemist; he is currently founder and director of the Institute of Climate Studies USA (www.ICSUSA.org). Climate Science is published the first Sunday of every month.