Rising sea levels, melting glaciers and more heat waves could be the new normal. That’s according to a United Nations panel with a dire warning about greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest assessment by the United Nations shows that global climate change is likely to create “severe pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
“This report offers three key messages,” Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General, said. “First, human influence on the climate system is clear and clearly growing. Second, we must act quickly and decisively if we want to avoid increasingly destructive outcomes. Third, we have the means to limit climate change and build a better future.”
Those destructive outcomes could include widespread flooding, food shortages, extinctions of plants and animals, and refugee crises that would hit the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest. Members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admit that changing course and heading off the most severe effects won’t be easy.
“What we have provided by a way of options is a menu. That includes energy efficiency and changes in demands in the sectors, where energy is consumed on a large scale,” Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, said. “We have talked about renewable energy. We’ve talked about carbon capture and storage.”
Carbon capture involves trapping emissions from power plants and storing them, usually underground, instead of sending them into the atmosphere. Without carbon capture, the report says all burning of fossil fuel would have to end to stop the worst effects of climate change.
“Power generation from fossil fuels would need to be phased out by the end of this century,” Pachauri said.
The U.N. panel said the science is clear and the solutions are known, but that science will only go so far towards fixing the problem.
“The scientific community has now spoken, but we are passing on the baton to politicians, the decision-making community,” Pachauri said.
CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reports.