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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National Library Week 2014 – Lives Change @ Your Library

New York Public Library with the Splendor of the Word BannerHave you visited your local public library recently? National Library Week, April 13th-19th, 2014, is a good time to check it out, literally. Lives Change @ Your Library® is an apt theme.

Today, even non-readers will find plenty of interest at the library. In addition to the usual paper books, magazines, and newspapers, library goers will find movie DVDs, music CDs, e-books, Internet access, and job search services.

Today’s tech-savvy librarians assist people with finding what they’re looking for, answer questions on a wide variety of topics, and help people of all ages and skills navigate computers and the Internet.

Library services are available to everyone for free. Well, sort of. Public libraries are taxpayer funded institutions (mostly local and state tax dollars), so they are not free, per se. However, library patrons generally do not pay for services except things like late fees or to cover shipping costs for materials from reciprocating libraries.

“More than ever, libraries are community hubs, and it is the librarian who works to maintain a safe harbor for teens, a point of contact for the elderly, and a place to nurture lifelong learning for all.”

—Maureen Sullivan (former president, American Library Association)

Libraries are Green

Long before green became an environmental buzzword, libraries have been masters at the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Library Interior with Bookshelves and StairsLibraries practice reduction up front by purchasing one copy or sometimes more of an item for library patrons to share. These books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, and CDs are read or viewed over and over again, indefinitely. Depending on the item, it may last for years, decades, or even longer.

When an item reaches the end of its useful life at the library, it may get a second life via donation or a library sale before eventually being recycled (yes, DVDs and CDs too).

By providing technology hubs, libraries enable a lot of different people to use the same equipment.

Libraries provide an ideal setting for people to explore and learn about green topics, such as climate change, green building, garbage, green living, and eco-friendly business practices, to name a few.

Public Library Facts

While reading about National Library Week and public libraries, I picked up a few interesting tidbits of information.

  • Library of Congress Reading RoomBenjamin Franklin helped found the first subscription library in 1731.2
  • The Library of Congress, founded in 1800 to serve the U.S. Congress, is the largest library in the world (by number of items).3
  • In 1883, the Peterborough, New Hampshire Town Library became the first free taxpayer supported library in the U.S. 2
  • Andrew Carnegie sometimes referred to as the “Patron Saint of Libraries”, funded construction of 1,679 U.S. libraries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.4
  • In 2010, public libraries served 96.4% of the U.S. population via 8,957 libraries and 17,078 branches and bookmobiles.1
  • Public libraries circulated 2.46 billion materials in 2010.1
  • 53% of Americans polled in 2011 said they had visited a library or bookmobile in the past 12 months.1
  • People Using Computers at the Library62% of public libraries report they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.1
  • Public libraries cost $35.81 per capita per year – about the cost of one hardcover book.5
  • More than 92% of public libraries offer services for job seekers.5

Visit Your Local Public Library and Find Out What’s New

Public libraries vary in size, accouterments, and services but they all have the same mission to connect people to reading and learning.

Soon after moving to a small town of about 6,000 people on the California Central Coast, I noticed the county library branch during a walk around town. It was housed in a tiny building (probably less than 2,500 square feet) and within easy walking distance of our house.

I went in and looked around which didn’t take long. I noticed a kid’s area, a section of DVDs and CDs, an area for large print books, a variety of magazines, and a couple of computer stations. The general bookshelves seemed to hold a small but respectable collection of books on a wide variety of subjects. Fiction books were housed in low 3-shelf bookcases with suggested books displayed on the top.

The library was doing a booming business with people looking for books, reading newspapers, typing away at the computers, perusing the digital media section, and checking out materials. I stepped up to the checkout desk and applied for a library card.

One of the librarians gave me the rundown on library hours and services. I learned that for $1.00 per item, I could request library materials from not only other county library branches but also branches in nearby counties that belonged to the regional cooperative library system. Cool. Odd, it had never occurred to me that I might able to borrow books beyond the local branch.

As it turned out, I am a frequent user of the cooperative library system. When I stumble across a book online or while reading another book or when someone recommends a book, I look for it on the online library system which gives a synopsis of the book, shows how many copies are in the system and where, and the dates checked out books are due back. I put it on my wishlist for future reference or make a request. When the book arrives at my branch, I receive an email then I go into the library to pay a buck and check out the book.

Story Time at the LibraryAfter a decades-long fundraising effort spearheaded by the Friends of the Library group, our town raised enough money to purchase and outfit a new library (the county paid half) about twice as big as the old one. The new library opened in December with more space for books, digital media, and computer stations, comfy well-lit reading areas, and room for the Friends of the Library to accept and sell donated materials.

I learned that two-thirds of our residents are library cardholders and check out about 10,000 items a month, making our little library one of the busiest in the county.

So check out your own local public library. Chances are you’ll find something new, a great book to read, a movie DVD you’ve been wanting to watch, or a service you never knew existed.


  1. American Library Association – The State of America’s Libraries, 2013
  2. Wikipedia – Public Library
  3. Wikipedia – Library of Congress
  4. Carnegie Corporation of New York – Libraries
  5. American Library Association – Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries