IPCC summary and graphics: Final report makes clear need for urgent clean revolution

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 6 minutes
14 April 2014

LONDON: This weekend the final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) was published, warning an urgent global switch to renewable energy is needed to keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees and avoid runaway climate change. Here are some key graphics that summarize the findings.

Mitigation of Climate Change, released in Berlin yesterday, is the third and final instalment of the IPCC's critical AR5, following the The Physical Science Basis published in September 2013 which concludes humans are to blame for man-made climate change, and March 2014's Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, which reveals the devastating impacts on the planet’s resources, economy and communities climate change is already responsible for.

This third instalment focuses on how the world can avoid the likely growth of greenhouse gas emissions. While the final draft is not yet available, below are some key graphics and findings from the IPCC report's shorter Summary for Policymakers.

Firstly, authors highlights how the world’s current efforts to reduce greenhouse gases have not been enough, as man-made emissions have continued to increase to the ‘highest in human history’, despite more climate mitigation policies and low carbon energy growth in recent years. This graph shows the total amount of human-caused GHGs in the atmosphere from 1970-2010.

Graphic by IPCC

Largely due to our still fast-growing global economy, the IPCC warns that under a 'business-as-usual' scenario, emissions will far overshoot the limit associated with a dangerous temperature rise of more than 2C. Below the IPCC authors chart emissions by economic sector, showing how&nbsp;<strong>energy use accounts for 35% of emissions</strong> but that many other industries are also responsible.

Graphic by IPCC

But while this AR5 instalment’s findings are as stark as the previous two, the IPCC says there is still an opportunity to curb emissions by the end of the century and the scientists advise GHGs fall between 40-70% from 2010 levels by 2050.

The scientists also demonstrate how carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) should not go above 530 parts per million (ppm) to avoid dangerous temperature rise. This graphic illustrates the impacts on CO2e under different scenarios of emissions, with the smallest blue strip being the one we should be aiming for. This strip represents a scenario whereby we <strong>keep within 430-380 ppm of CO2e by 2100.

Graphic by IPCC

Taking into account these scenarios, the IPCC underscores the importance of urgent climate action, writing: ‘Delaying mitigation efforts beyond those in place today through 2030 is estimated to substantially increase the transition to low longer?term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2°C relative to pre?industrial levels’. 

However, scaling-up of low carbon energy is heavily emphasized as key to keeping on track for emission reductions. The IPCC suggests both a cut in fossil fuel investments of US$30 billion a year and a renewable energy investment increase of around US$31-360 billion. The scientists put forward that the share of low carbon energy in the global energy mix must almost quadruple by 2050.

The below graph shows the upscaling requirements of low carbon energy for 2030, 2050 and 2100 compared to 2010 levels in the mitigation scenarios.

Graphic by IPCC

The report's diagram below illustrates the different implications of 2030 GHG emissions levels for the rate of CO2 emissions reductions and low carbon energy upscaling from 2030-2050, in mitigation scenarios reaching around 450-500 ppm CO2e by 2100.

Importantly, the authors outline how climate action is both feasible and affordable, and show that an urgent global shift to low carbon energy would only cause a small curb in economic growth compared to the huge costs of extreme weather events that would increase with aggravated climate change. IPCC also highlights the many co-benefits associated with climate action, such as better health for citizens as well as food and energy security.

While complimenting the UNFCCC for pushing international climate change cooperation, the report advises better government collaboration: 'Policy linkages among regional, national, and sub-national climate policies offer potential climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits'. It affirms: 'Many climate policies can be more effective if implemented across geographical regions.'

We are now almost a year from the COP21 climate talks in Paris where countries will come together to agree a global deal and so collaboration and leadership on climate change is now more crucial than ever.

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group believes the IPCC report is yet another clear and urgent call for leaders to invest in a clean revolution: “The Climate Group has been working with business and government partners to drive a clean revolution, a swift scale-up of clean energy, infrastructure, and of smart technologies. The IPCC reports make it clear this needs to happen now. This is no longer a theoretical discussion, though 70-80% of the necessary technology is available today. What is needed is a combination of coordinated policy and corporate leadership to accelerate the transition.

“What is now beyond doubt is that the clean tech sector is an attractive proposition for any investor: the global market is now worth more than US$2.56 trillion a year, and is expected to be valued at more than US$5.13 trillion by the mid-2020s."

Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair IPCC Working Group III, will be delivering a keynote address at The Climate Group’s 10 year anniversary event in London on 28 April.

We also published a five-part briefing series covering the basics of climate science before last year’s IPCC release. <a href="https://www.theclimategroup.org/news-and-briefings/briefings">Read it here.</a>

By Clare Saxon Ghauri

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