Global warming is real and caused by humans, a new report has reiterated. The report is the first of three in 12 months by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It set out to summarise scientists’ understanding of climate change—what they know and how sure of it they are. It says there are now greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels unprecedented in 800,000 years.
These gases cause higher temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans and melting ice. It is also “extremely likely” that human activity has caused climate change—up from “very likely” in the last report.
The IPCC has delivered a blow to climate change “sceptics” who deny or downplay climate change. These people—often backed by big business or right wing politicians—have few scientific credentials and get a disproportionate profile in the media.
Many of them focus on figures that seem to show a “lull” in global warming since 1998. But the IPCC report says these figures do not change the long term trends. It points out that it is a small amount of data, skewed by the El Niño weather system which made 1998 an unusually warm year.
It also predicts that warming is likely to continue for a century—probably above the United Nations’ goal of two degrees. The warming will make the world hotter and disrupt rain and weather patterns—which could have terrible consequences for human life.
The third report, out in April 2014, is set to suggest mechanisms using market forces to curb climate change. These are set to include more carbon trading. Such schemes have so far failed to make an impact—but they have helped businesses make a huge profit.
By turning more resources into private property in the hands of the few, profit-based mechanisms stand in the way of the collective action needed to stop environmental destruction.