Thomas Moore – Health and Science Correspondent – 27 September 2013
Scientists have come to a remarkable consensus on the cause of global warning. The question remains, what will governments do?
There can be little doubt now that human activity is largely responsible for global warming.
Nearly 900 scientists helped to write the one million words in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
And 110 governments went through it line by line.
All the more remarkable that the panel has reached a consensus. That makes it hard to ignore.
The projections are that by the end of the century the planet will be between 1.5C and 4.5C warmer.
That doesn’t sound like much. But there won’t be an even distribution of the rising temperature. Some parts of the world will be much warmer.
And even a small rise in temperature means the atmosphere stores more energy and moisture. There would be more weather extremes – heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes.
Sea levels would also rise by between 26cm and 82cm as glaciers melt and ice caps retreat.
Sceptics argue that global surface temperatures haven’t risen since 1998 and that the scientific models are wrong.
But the scientists say this is only a temporary pause. Ocean currents have absorbed some of the extra heat, but at some point they will reverse.
So it is a united message from scientists.
It’s now over to the politicians. There will be a high level inter-governmental meeting next year. This is a global problem that needs global action.
Some governments have been slow to act, unwilling to make the switch to a low carbon economy, either because they believe it will hold back their development, or because they don’t believe it’s a message voters want to hear.
There’s no doubt that investment in green energy means higher fuel prices. But delaying action on carbon emissions will only mean greater cost later: flood barriers to hold back the rivers and sea, more expensive insurance and higher food bills.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that we have to lift our heads out of the sand and act.