World can still avoid dangerous global warming, says IPCC co-chair

IPCC will show that determined efforts to tackle climate change could still keep temperatures beneath 1.5C

Thomas Stocker is co-chair of the IPCC Working Group 1, dealing with the physical science of climate change

By Sophie Yeo

There is a chance that the world can keep below dangerous levels of global warming, the co-chair of the UN’s climate science panel said on Monday.

Opening a weeklong conference in Stockholm, where the IPCC report will be scrutinized by governments and policymakers, Thomas Stocker said that the world still had a choice in whether to avoid climate-related catastrophe.

“Our assessment shows that we do have a choice in shaping our future,” said Stocker, who along with Dahe Qin is responsible for chairing Working Group 1 of the enormous international report, which deals with the physical science of climate change.

“Scenarios that have assumed determined interventions and strong mitigation offer a chance of keeping global mean warming under 1.5C.”

He added: “On the other hand, scenarios that envisage continued CO2 emissions or postponed reductions of these emissions indicate that options of limiting global warming to 2C may become unobtainable.

“The choice to shape the future is ours, and fortunately we are not left to make blind choices, to cast the dice or enjoy ignorance. Regular IPCC assessments ensure that the basis for informed decisions remain scientific, robust and up to date.”

Media leaks

The IPCC report, six years in the making, is due to be released this Friday. Governments and scientists have gathered in Stockholm this week to approve, line by line, the Summary for Policymakers, where the prodigious scientific document is condensed into a clear framework that can then be used to inform climate change related policy decisions.

Drafts of the report have been leaked to the media in advance of its official release, and both supporters and detractors of the IPCC have scrambled to interpret them, leading the chairman of the IPCC to dismiss an attempted “spoiler campaign” and a spokesperson for the IPCC to suggest that early drafts could give a “misleading” impression of the final report.

Stocker acknowledged the challenges that the IPCC has had to face in advance of the high profile launch this week.

He said, “Since a few months ago, news about climate change has surfaces again in the media after some considerable time of relative silence.

“Some of those reports surprised me because their messages contrasted so much with the latest published results in the scientific literature and with the assessment that the IPCCC working group 1 team of scientists has carried out during the past five years.”


He added that, overall, drafts of the IPCC have received 54,677 comments, which have all been considered by experts and governments.

This week, the panel will consider the 1,800 comments that have been submitted on the current draft, including a controversial suggestion from Germany that references to the 15-year global warming ‘hiatus’ be removed – a suggestion which reflects their belief that such a time period is too small to merit consideration, but which sceptics have claimed is part of a wider ‘conspiracy’.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, also speaking at Monday’s opening, commented on the pressure that the scientists are under to produce a comprehensive and objective overview of the current science.

He said, “There are justifiable expectations that the AR5 [Assessment Report 5] will be an outstanding scientifically robust and informative report, which will go far beyond previous assessments, and we are here to meet these expectations.”

Stocker added: “I know of no other document which has undergone this scrutiny, that has involved so many critical people that offered their insight and advice. This is what makes the report unique.

“It stands out as a reliable and indispensable source of knowledge about climate change. This knowledge is based on measurements in the atmosphere, in the ocean, on land, on ice and from space. These measurements permit and unprecedented and unbiased view of the state of the climate system.”

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