The world’s top climate scientists are now 95 percent certain that humans are mostly responsible for the rise of the Earth’s temperature over the past several decades. A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Last week, the Working Group 1 of the IPCC released its fifth report on climate change.
In its previous study, released in 2007, the IPCC attracted a deluge of criticism by claiming that emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide due to human activity were making the planet warmer. The discovery of errors in some theses also raised skepticism about the IPCC’s claim.
The latest report, however, dismissed the doubts and stated with greater certainty that human activity is the main cause of global warming.
It is based on more than 9,000 scientific papers. More than 1,000 scientists checked the draft. It is significant that the IPCC has provided forecasts about climate change that can be described as the present common denominator among experts from around the world.
The average temperature of the Earth could rise by as much as 4.8 degrees while the average sea level could rise by as much as 82 centimeters by the end of the century, according to the report. There will likely be more extreme weather phenomena, such as high temperatures, heavy rainfall and severe drought, the report warns.
The document also includes some new opinions, one of which says water temperature is probably rising even at depths of 3,000 meters or more. Changes in ocean currents could cause large-scale abnormal weather.
In an effort to prevent the situation from becoming so bad that nothing can be done to improve it, the international community has set a long-term target of keeping the rise in temperature below 2 degrees above the pre-Industrial Revolution level. But there has been little progress in the efforts to stem global warming, and the target is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.
In November, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Warsaw. Discussions at the climate change conference will be based on the latest IPCC report and focused on measures to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions further.
Governments around the world should recall the original goal, which is to take steps to make sure that there will be no regret over the world’s response to the global challenge. They need to go beyond individual countries’ interests and focus their negotiations on ways to serve the interests of the Earth and humanity.
From this point of view, the Japanese government’s goal for cutting Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions is vastly insufficient. By 2020, Tokyo plans to reduce emissions to a level that is only 6 to 7 percent lower than the 2005 level. This could lead to an increase in emissions from the 1990 level, the base year for the climate treaty.
In 2009, the administration led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged to the world that Japan would slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from its 1990 level. Even though the Fukushima nuclear disaster has shattered hopes that nuclear power generation would play an important role in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Japan will be criticized for lacking serious commitment in tackling this challenge if its target only keeps emissions at the 1990 level.
At the World Environmental Forum held in Tokyo earlier this week under the sponsorship of The Asahi Shimbun, an Australian expert stressed that we have an obligation to leave a livable world to our children and grandchildren. Pointing out that changing energy and transport systems takes time, the expert called for immediate actions to tackle this challenge.
Central governments are not the only responsible actors, however. Companies, citizens and local governments should also heed the report, which gathered the wisdom of the world.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 3
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