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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5 Ways to Go Green on Earth Day 2014

Angel Cat Flying The Planet Earth Flag Postcard by Paula ZimaThe 44th Earth Day falls inconveniently on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, a work day for most people. Below are 5 ideas for observing Earth Day on the day.

Make a phone call, send an email, write a letter, read, or watch a movie. Many of these actions can be completed in the course of your workday, during a break or at lunchtime.

Sign Up for Community Supported Agriculture

Buying locally grown food like fruits and vegetables lowers fossil fuel use and pollution by reducing the number of miles your food travels. Produce picked the day you buy or pick it up stays fresh longer and cuts down on food waste. For instance, a head of lettuce will stay fresh and crisp for two weeks in the fridge.

Nowadays many communities, large and small, are home to community supported agriculture (CSA) farms. A wide variety of options and payment plans make CSAs affordable for many people. Some will deliver to your home or even your office.

Organic Strawberries from Community Supported Agriculture FarmEarth Day Action: spring is the perfect time to sign up with a local CSA farm and start enjoying the fresh-picked seasonal produce. To find a CSA, look online at Eat Well Guide or LocalHarvest, ask around, or enter the name of your town and CSA program into your web browser. Once you find a CSA farm, call, email, or sign up online.

Extra Credit: sign up with an organic farm.

Write to an Elected Official

The first Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the beginning of the modern environmental movement. During the 1970s, Americans became aware of and outraged about air and water pollution, food safety issues, and wilderness degradation. Increasing public pressure led Congress to pass several pieces of landmark environmental legislation including establishing the EPA, the Clean Air and Water Acts, and the Endangered Species Act.

After years of inaction, I decided to make my voice heard by writing to my elected officials to let them know what is important to me and suggest actions I think they should take. Last year for Earth Day, I wrote a letter to President Obama about solar power. I’ll provide a link to this year’s Earth Day letter in my next post.

Woman Writing a Letter with a PenEarth Day Action: take a break at work and write a letter or send an email to one of your elected officials to share your opinions, concerns, or ideas on topics that matter to you.

Extra Credit: write about an environmental-related issue.

Make an Appointment with a Rooftop Solar Company

Renewable energy is clean and well, renewable. We need to get off burning fossil fuels for electricity and we can. Solar is one option.

The cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically which puts rooftop solar within reach of many homeowners and renters (renters talk to your landlord) who previously thought it was unaffordable. Your local solar company is up to speed on the purchase, lease, and other financing options available in your area as well as local, state, and federal tax incentives, which can be substantial.

Last March, we put 16 solar panels on our roof. Over the period of a year, we generated enough excess electricity to cover our use at night and on especially cloudy days, as well as to pay our share of transmission, distribution, public purpose programs, nuclear decommissioning, bonds, generation, and taxes.

By this time next year, you could be generating your own power, saving money, and contributing to the clean energy economy while reducing your own carbon footprint.

Author's Rooftop Solar PanelsEarth Day Action: if you know someone with solar panels, ask for a referral. If not, use your web browser to search for solar panel installers in your area. Some states have websites. Select a company then call them and schedule an appointment to have your roof evaluated for solar panels.

Extra Credit: ask a neighbor if they’d like to have a solar evaluation the same day as yours.

Read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

Chances are you’ve seen a headline, article, or post about the recent climate change assessment report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is an international body of scientists who review and analyze thousands of climate change reports, peer-reviewed articles, white papers, documents, and tons of data. They then distil the information and prepare assessment reports for governmental policymakers (the people who determine our future by establishing regulations, setting policy, and passing or blocking legislation).

As citizens of Earth, we need to inform ourselves about climate change and what we can do about it. Let’s take advantage of the legwork done by the IPCC and read the reports ourselves or least the summaries.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LogoEarth Day Action: the actual IPCC assessment reports are hefty and will require more than one day for reading. So on Earth Day read the IPCC summaries and perhaps watch a video or two. This is probably best done before or after work.

Extra Credit: send the IPCC links above to a friend or family member.

Go to Your Library, Check Out and Watch a Video about Climate Change

The two movies noted below are more than a few years old but deliver climate change information in a way anyone can relate to and understand.

I didn’t go see An Inconvenient Truth when it hit the movie theaters in 2006. Previews on TV made it seem like a doom and gloom story and I just didn’t want to hear it. A few years later, I realized pretending climate change wasn’t happening would not work so I rented the video. It is a powerful movie that everyone should see regardless of how you feel about Al Gore.

Recently, I checked out Burning the Future: Coal in America from my local library. This film is about blowing off the tops of mountains in West Virginia to obtain coal for coal-fired power plants. Viewers will see regular people taking a stand and fighting against the coal industry and ineffective government to save their homes and their children’s future. Everyone should watch this movie to be reminded of what it actually takes to turn the lights on.

New York Public Library with Splendor is the Word BannerEarth Day Action: check out one of these videos, or a climate change video of your choice, at your local library and watch it. This is probably an after work activity. However, during the workday, you can check your library’s online system to find and reserve a video. Don’t have a library card? Get one.

Extra Credit: invite family or friends to watch the video with you.

Have an Earth Day action idea of your own? Please share it in the comments section.

Reader Note – Angel Cat Image

I received the “Angel Cat Proudly Flying the Planet Earth Flag, Which Flies Above All Others” postcard, from Gail Johnson of the Johnson Framing Studio in San Luis Obispo, CA. The original painting “Peace Cat” is by Paula Zima. I fell in love with this postcard and keep it on my desk. This should become the official flag for Earth Day.

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