A new report released last week by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has further highlighted the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide have risen to unprecedented levels, despite an increasing number of global measures to reduce climate change.
The report indicates that emissions increased more rapidly in the decade spanning between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the previous three decades, and states that it would require a dramatic shift towards renewable energies in order to reverse the worrying trend.
"The high speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon, and all of global society will have to get on board," the IPCC's chair Rajendra Pachauri told journalists in Berlin at the launch of the report, which is entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change.
This is the third of three Working Group reports which comprise the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report on the issue of climate change. The Working Group is directed by three Co-Chairs: Ottmar Edenhofer from Germany, Ramón Pichs-Madruga from Cuba, and Youba Sokona from Mali.
“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” Edenhofer said. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”
The message resulting from the new information suggests that, in order to limit the increase global mean temperatures to two degrees Celsius, global greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced by between 40 to 70 per cent by the mid-century, and to practically zero by the end of this century. It may even be necessary to explore methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
But another new study has revealed that the real danger is not just being posed by carbon emissions, but also by rapidly thawing permafrost in the Arctic.
This phenomenon alone could produce more atmospheric methane than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, resulting in even more severe climactic impact; this is very significant as methane is more than 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 when measured over a 100 year timeframe.This is because the thaw could create conditions that spawn a proliferation of new plants that will in turn encourage huge populations of methane-producing microbes, said the new study, which was published in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This impact of permafrost thaw on organic matter chemistry could intensify the predicted climate feedbacks,” said the authors, who were made up of scientists from various US and European universities and research centres.
The researcher created a test site in northern Sweden to monitor the process of methane emissions from thawing permafrost, and after analyzing the results declared previous estimates to be “conservative”.
This news, coming as it does in the wake of the new IPCC report, further drives home the point that the world is facing the possibility of a potential "mass extinction" event driven, not by a cataclysmic meteor strike or volcanic eruptions, but from tiny microbes empowered to proliferate by the more conducive environment created by climate change.
Catch this weekend's Easter Special which will explore mass extinction events and their historical and future impacts on our ever-evolving planet.