IPCC Working Group III – Mitigation of Climate Change

The 3rd part of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report deals with mitigating climate change, making it less severe and painful for humans and other denizens of Earth.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international scientific body sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization. Hundreds of scientists and experts periodically review and evaluate the latest information on climate change and prepare a multi-part assessment report to aid global policymakers in understanding climate change, its potential effects, and possible adaptation and mitigation strategies.

IPCC Climate Change 2014: Climate Change Mitigation Report CoverOne can imagine how tricky it must be to create a report that is informative, easily understood, and does not offend anyone. Each word is carefully selected, reviewed, and approved. See below for an example from the Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change report.

IPCC finding: “Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently.”

My interpretation: If every man acts for himself, game over.

To learn more about the IPCC and the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) contributions from Working Group I and II read Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central and IPCC Working Group II – Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

Degree of Certainty

IPCC reports use degree of certainty levels to qualify and quantify key findings based on type, amount, quality, and consistency of evidence, confidence in the validity of the finding, and the likelihood of some outcome having occurred or occurring in the future.

  • Available evidence: limited, medium, or robust
  • Degree of agreement: low, medium, or high
  • Level of confidence: very low, low, medium, high, or high
  • Likelihood of an outcome or result: virtually certain (99-100%), very likely (90-100%), likely (66-100%), about as likely as not (33-66%), unlikely (0-33%), very unlikely (8-10%), exceptionally unlikely (0-1%)

IPCC AR5 Working Group III Report

On April 13, 2014, the IPCC announced the release of Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change by Working Group III. This third installment of AR5 offers strategies and proposals for mitigating climate change between now and the year 2100 with the intent of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit).

“Mitigation is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases”.

Below are some highlights from the 33-page Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that I found particularly interesting, important, or thought provoking.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Facts and Trends
  • Anthropogenic (caused by humans) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions grew on average by 2.2% per year from 2000 to 2010, almost double the yearly rate of 1.3% from 1970 to 2000.
  • Traffic Jam on Los Angeles FreewayCarbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels and industrial processes contributed 78% of the total GHG emission increase from 1970 to 2010.
  • In 2010, carbon dioxide accounted for the largest portion of GHG emissions (76%), followed by methane (16%), nitrous oxide (6.2%), and fluorinated gases (2.0%).
  • About half of cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 occurred in the last 40 years.
  • Increased use of coal in relation to other energy sources has reversed a long-standing trend of gradual decarbonization of the world’s energy supply.

Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist driven by growth in global population and economic activities. Baseline scenarios, those without additional mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels (median values; the range is 2.5°C to 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty). (high confidence)”

Long-term Mitigation Pathways

About 900 mitigation scenarios were reviewed. They covered a wide range of technological and behavioral options associated with various levels of mitigation. Some strategies have co-benefits like reducing pollution, improving food security, or saving money.

Mitigation scenarios in which it is likely that the temperature change caused by anthropogenic GHG emissions can be kept to less than 2°C relative to pre‐industrial levels are characterized by atmospheric concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm CO2eq (high confidence).”

The low hanging fruit of mitigation solutions would reduce energy use and thus emissions while saving money. Here are a few examples:

  • Accelerating implementation of energy efficiency projects for transportation, buildings, and industry.
  • Changing eating habits, like eating less beef, and eliminating waste in the food chain.
  • Identifying and removing wasted energy and materials from industrial processes.

Mitigation strategies often involve technologies that already exist but may face challenges due to financial obstacles, public resistance, or opposition from industry. Take energy sources for instance.

  • Coal Power Plant with Piles of CoalClosing coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas power plants would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but meet resistance from the coal industry and members of the public concerned about natural gas fracking.
  • Renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, and hydro) are available for widespread deployment but need investment money to scale up and face opposition from the fossil fuel industry.
  • Nuclear power is a low-carbon mature energy source, however building new plants is exorbitantly expensive, the process results in radioactive waste, and there is considerable public resistance.

Some mitigation suggestions involve unproven technologies or require substantial governmental intervention.

  • Theoretically, carbon capture and storage could markedly reduce emissions but it is still a relatively untested technology and may not be a viable option.
  • New urban development projects need to be designed and built with climate Green 3D Dollar Signmitigation in mind, yet in many areas where growth is occurring, there is limited access to information and technical expertise, lack of a strong government and regulatory structure, and inadequate financial resources.
  • Economics usually plays a part in government policy decision making which may delay funding of critical mitigation projects because funds are directed elsewhere.

The IPCC report points out that uncertainties and model limitations exist meaning unexpected things may occur. This seems like a huge understatement. The Earth’s climate systems are incredibly complex and no one has a crystal ball.

Yet, uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction. So let’s get to work.

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IPCC Working Group II – Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

What does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report have to do with you? Plenty, if you plan to live on Earth during the 21st century.

Earth Globe over Flames Depicting Global Warming, Climate ChangeThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international organization founded in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO). IPCC prepares assessment reports to assist global policymakers in understanding climate change science, its risks, and possible response strategies. Thousands of scientific papers, reports, and publications are reviewed and distilled into a 3-part report that represents the diversity of IPCC’s 195 member countries.

To learn more about the IPCC and assessment report process, read Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central.

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Core Writing Team - Photo: IPCCAssessment reports are prepared by three IPCC Working Groups, each one focusing on a specific area. Each report is accompanied by a shorter Summary for Policymakers (SPM). After a review and revision process, the final draft reports are officially approved by the IPCC and released to the public. Subsequently, the final edited reports are published online and made available in print.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being published during 2013 and 2014.

  • Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis – by IPCC Working Group I (approved 09/30/13)
  • Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – by IPCC Working Group II (approved 03/31/14)
  • Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change – by IPCC Working Group III (target approval April 2014)
  • Synthesis Report AR5 – additional report by IPCC Core Writing Team (target approval October 2014)

IPCC AR5 Working Group I Report

To read and watch a video about the first installment by Working Group I, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, read Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central.

IPCC AR5 Working Group II Report

IPCC Climate Change 2014 Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerabilities Report Cover WGIIPart two of IPCC AR5, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability by Working Group II, was just approved on Monday, March 31, 2014. So far, I’ve read the 44-page Summary for Policymakers (SPM) which is divided into three sections:

  1. Section A: Observed impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in a complex and changing world
  2. Section B: Future risks and opportunities for adaption
  3. Section C: Managing future risks and building resilience

Working Group II assessed risks and potential adaptations related to freshwater resources, land and aquatic ecosystems, coastal and low-lying areas, food security and production, urban and rural areas, economic sectors and services, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty.

Interestingly, at least I thought it was interesting; the SPM reinforced what I already understand and believe about climate change from a big picture perspective.

  • Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that changes have already occurred on all continents and across all oceans; humans and natural systems are currently being impacted.
  • Poor and disadvantaged people who already face many challenges are the most vulnerable to climate change and have the least ability to cope with its impacts.
  • Recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires reveal humans have significant exposure and vulnerability to these types of events.
  • Some local, regional, and national government entities are starting to develop and implement adaptation plans and policies.
  • Responding to climate-related risks involves making decisions in a changing world, with uncertainty about the severity and timing of impacts.

The 12-minute video below gives viewers a good overview of climate change risk and our opportunity to build a more resilient human society.

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IPCC AR5 Working Group III Report

Working Group III’s contribution to AR5, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change is expected to be approved during the IPCC meeting being held in Berlin, Germany April 7th through 11th. The press conference is scheduled for Sunday, April 13, 2014, at 11:00 Berlin time. That’s 2:00 a.m. in California so I think I’ll wait for the video.

What Can You Do about Climate Change?

What can you do? For starters, become educated about climate change. IPCC’s assessment reports are a good jumping off point. Are you already knowledgeable about climate change? Then share what you know with your friends, family, and coworkers.

Human society’s diversity complicates our ability to understand and assess climate change risks and determine and take adaptation and mitigation actions. Each one of us views risks and benefits through our own filter of geography, culture, values, economic status, and experience. On the other hand, I believe our diversity enables us to envision a wide variety of creative, innovative, and feasible solutions. I am hopeful.

The choices we make and actions we take now will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century and beyond. Truly we are all in this together.

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