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Summary Of IPCC Synthesis Report

On Climate Change


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth and final report November 17, 2007. Titled “Climate Change 2007,” the report explains the climatic changes caused by global warming, why it may be happening, how it may affect the future, and what people can do to curb the effects.


The AR4 (Assessment Report 4) Synthesis Report summarizes the research of the three IPCC working groups: “The Physical Science Basis,” “Impacts, Adaptations and Vulnerability,” and “Mitigation of Climate Change.”


The following facts and opinions come from the AR4 Synthesis Report Summary for Policy Makers, which can be found at http://www.ipcc.ch/.


The IPCC states that the atmosphere is without a doubt getting warmer.


Eleven of the past 12 years have been the warmest on record since 1850. Increases in air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels are a direct result of higher temperatures. Evidence shows that intense tropical cyclone activity has increased in the North Atlantic since the 1970s, and it is likely that heat waves and heavy rains are occurring more frequently.


Flowers blooming early, animals migrating toward the poles, and weakening permafrost illustrate that many natural systems are being affected by changes in climate. More than 89 percent of all physical and biological systems that the IPCC studied are changing due to an increase in temperatures.


Also, there is speculation that fire, pests, infectious diseases, and allergenic pollen levels are being impacted by climate change.


Evidence shows that humans have most likely caused the increase in temperatures.


Fossil fuel use, agriculture, and land-use changes have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the air, causing warm sun rays to become trapped in the atmosphere.


Human influences have:

very likely contributed to sea level rise during the latter half of the 20th century.

likely contributed to changes in wind patterns, affecting extra-tropical storm tracks and temperature patterns.

likely increased temperatures of extreme hot nights, cold nights, and cold days.

more likely than not increased risk of heat waves, areas affected by drought since the 1970s, and frequency of heavy precipitation events.


Natural forces from the sun and volcanoes, without any human impact, would likely have cooled the earth in the past 50 years. Models show that because of certain responses of nature, at least some of the warming is anthropogenic; the IPCC says it is very unlikely that nature would do this on its own.


Impacts will become more severe as temperatures increase.


Global GHG emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70 percent between 1970 and 2004. The IPCC projects a 25-90 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions between the years 2000 and 2030. Some impacts may be irreversible.


With an increase in temperature, coastal flooding and damage would occur more frequently. More water would be available in high latitudes and tropics and less available in mid-, semi- and low-latitudes. Some agriculture yields may increase in mid- to high latitudes and colder environments, while yields would decrease in low latitudes and warmer areas.


If temperature increases exceed 3.5 degrees Celsius, or 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 40-70 percent of all identified species will become extinct.


Melting from ice sheets could inundate coastal areas, islands, and other low-lying areas over the next millennium. A rise in sea level is inevitable, and may occur during this century.


Effects on human health include an increase in malnutrition, infectious diseases, and deaths due to drought, heat waves and floods. Evidence shows that specific groups such as the poor and elderly are the most vulnerable, and areas with weak economies and limited access to resources will be most affected.


If used together, mitigation and adaptation are the best solution.


In the long term, it is likely that human systems will not be able to adapt if climate change is not mitigated. This timeframe varies from region to region.


The IPCC has high confidence that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone will be the best solution, but they can complement each other and reduce the effects of climate change when used together. 


Adaptations include:

·         water conservation through rainwater harvesting and better irrigation methods

·         crop relocation and improved soil erosion control

·         creating marshlands as a buffer to sea level rise and relocating coastal settlements

·         heat-health action plans and emergency assistance

·         climate sensitive disease surveillance and control


Examples of mitigation techniques:

·         improving crop and range land management to increase soil carbon storage

·         improving nitrogen fertilizer management to reduce nitrous oxide emissions

·         reforestation/forest management

·         creating second-generation biofuels and high-efficiency aircraft

·         using nuclear power, renewable energy, and more fuel-efficient vehicles

·         creating markets for low emissions technologies

·         recycling and minimizing waste


Governments can create the incentive for mitigation through many avenues, and the IPCC strongly believes that changes in lifestyle, behavior patterns, and management practices can contribute to climate change mitigation across all sectors.


-- Katie Starzec, CASMGS Communications, Kansas State University



Conference Proceedings: 2007 USDA Greenhouse Gas Symposium

February 6-8, 2007


Past Conference Proceedings: 2005 USDA Greenhouse Gas Symposium

March 21 - 24, 2005

Past Conference Proceedings: CASMGS 2003 Fall Forum

Conference information, presentations, and papers are available at http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/ctec/Fall_Forum.htm

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