The U.N. Just Released Its Final Report on Climate Change—and It’s Terrifying

The IPCC says we need to stop burning fossil fuels by 2100.
(Photo: Hans-Peter Merten/Getty Images)
Nov 2, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Science has spoken: Fossil fuels should be phased out by the end of the century.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Sunday released the final installment of its four-part assessment, published over the past 13 months. The report, which draws on the analysis of 800 scientists, will serve as a guideline for government officials to come up with a global treaty on climate by 2015.

According to the grim conclusion, the planet will face “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage if we don’t switch to zero- and low-carbon sources of electricity by 2100. Humans and ecosystems could suffer unprecedented losses from more severe and frequent weather events.

What can we do? The report suggests that we grow our use of renewable energy from its current 30 percent share of the power sector to 80 percent by 2050. Combined with technological and structural change, “behavior, lifestyle and culture” could have a considerable impact.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said at the launch of the report in Copenhagen. “All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

In the United States, President Obama has pledged to battle climate change and has proposed cutting carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2013. But the results of the midterm election could hamper similar efforts. The GOP, notorious for challenging climate science, is expected to take control of the Senate.

“If Republicans take back the Senate, I don’t see there being a lot of willingness to allow the administration to cede any authority to the U.N. on climate policies or elsewhere, and I don’t really think that kind of a position will hurt us politically going into 2016,” a Senate GOP aide told the Washington Examiner.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in his comment on the IPCC’s report, said that government officials need to act beyond politics.

“We can’t prevent a large-scale disaster if we don’t heed this kind of hard science,” he said in a statement. “The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow and grow. Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”