A new study by scientists updating some of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 Third Assessment Report finds that even a lower level of increase in average global temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions could cause significant problems in five key areas of global concern.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is titled "Assessing Dangerous Climate Change Through an Update of the IPCC 'Reasons for Concern."
In 2001, the IPCC published as part of its Third Assessment Report an illustrative figure which identified changes in climate authors determined to be "reasons for concern," and which could cause some or significant risks among five types of outcomes that could be categorized as "dangerous."
Sometimes referred to as the "burning embers" diagram, the five reasons for concern are:
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is in force and which the United States has ratified, calls for "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." That level is not defined by the Convention nor has it been clearly defined in subsequent negotiations by parties to the Convention.
One of the authors, Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, said, "The more we learn about the problem, the more severe the risk becomes and the nearer it looms. Cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases promptly is the surest way to reduce the risk, and that's how governments should be responding."
A lead author, Stephen H. Schneider, Stanford University professor of biology and interdisciplinary environmental studies and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, said, "We need both mitigation and adaptation policies to cope with climate change, since we must adapt to changes we cannot prevent and mitigate changes that are hard to adapt to—that is, mitigation and adaptation are complements, not trade-offs"
Another lead author, Joel B. Smith, a Vice-President at Stratus Consulting in Boulder Colorado, said, "Based on observed impacts and new research, the risks from climate change in general now appear to be greater than they did a few years ago. The current path of greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lead to a change in climate that will exceed levels which we found will cause significant adverse impacts."
Other co-authors pf the study are Gary W. Yohe, William Hare, Michael D. Mastrandrea, Anand Patwardhan, Ian Burton, Jan Corfee-Morlot, Chris. H. D. Magadza, Hans-Martin Füssel, A. Barrie Pittock, Atiq Rahman, Avelino Suarez, and Jean-Pascal van Ypersele.
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