NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sunday released the latest part of its Fifth Assessment Report, outlining the dramatic steps that need to be taken to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming caused by humans.
Most significantly, the Summary for Policymakers portion of the report emphasizes the need for coordination on a planetary scale.
"Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently," the report emphasizes.
The Summary notes that total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached approximately 49 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2010. The majority of the increase of such emissions since 1750 was produced in the last 40 years, with the last decade showing the most dramatic escalation. The global economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 temporarily reduced emissions.
The documents are the third of four installments that together comprise the Fifth Assessment Report, being released in stages over the last year. The fourth installment is expected in October. Each installment draws on the opinions of hundreds of the world's leading scientists, summarizing vast amounts of recent scientific research.
According to the IPCC press release:
"Since the last IPCC assessment report, published in 2007, a wealth of new knowledge about climate change mitigation has emerged. The authors of the new, fifth Working Group III report have included about 10,000 references to scientific literature in 16 chapters."
The report pegs the "catastrophic" threshold at an average surface temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius "above pre-industrial levels." To avoid that, the scientific consensus recommends dramatic reduction in carbon emissions from 2010 standards, a global shift to clean energy sources, an emphasis on reforestation to help absorb carbon in the atmosphere and an increase in energy efficiency. Further measures to actively remove carbon from the air may also be required.
The report indicates the possible positive contributions of biomass fuels and carbon capture and storage, but notes that alone, those technologies are not yet available at a sufficient scale.
In the IPCC press release, German scientist Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the directors of Working Group III, the panel response for the report, said scientists were sending a strong message.
"To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual," he said.
The changes in emissions would affect energy production and use, transport, buildings, industry, land use and "human settlements," the scientists said.
The scientists discounted the negative economic effects of such a shift in energy production and reduction in emissions. Edenhofer noted that any scenario that kept global warming below the critical threshold would require "substantial investments."
However such investments themselves could yield positive economic benefits. Those benefits, along with the economic benefits from avoiding catastrophic scenarios, are not typically figured in to estimates of mitigation costs.
-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park