International media releases and press conferences

Emissions cut of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 needed for industrial countries for 2 degree C limit

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 - 1030 UTC/GMT

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Authors of the landmark 2009 climate report "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" estimate that by 2020 industrial nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by  around 40% below 1990 levels to secure a decent chance of avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis authors used IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) projections as well as post-AR4 analysis to estimate that emissions reductions of around 40% from industrial nations are needed to make it likely to keep global warming below 2°C.

In their report released 25 November of this year, the authors noted that many nations had publically recognized the importance of this 2°C limit. Yet the authors said today that this 2°C warming threshold could be crossed as early as 2040 unless significant mitigation measures were taken urgently.

Since the landmark 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted and ratified by virtually all nations including the US, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels have risen by more than 40%, said the authors.

"The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change pledged to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system. Yet recent emissions growth sets us on a pathway toward significant climate change, unless deep emission cuts are secured urgently", said Professor Matthew England, an author of the report.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis, a year in the making, was released worldwide last month.

The report concluded that several important aspects of climate change are already occurring at the high end, or even beyond, the expectations of just a few years ago.

The report found that global ice sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea ice is thinning and melting much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast.

The report also noted that global warming continues to track early IPCC projections based on greenhouse gas increases. Without significant mitigation, the report concluded that global mean warming could reach as high as 7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The report found that:

  • Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea-level rise at an increasing rate.
  • The area of summer sea ice remaining during 2007-2009 was about 40% less than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
  • Global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100. Without significant mitigation, sea-level rise of several meters is to be expected over the next few centuries.
  • If long-term global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2°Celsius above preindustrial values, average annual per-capita emissions in industrialized nations will have to be reduced by around 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to ten years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change.

The full report is available at download.copenhagendiagnosis.org

Other statements by Authors

"Science knew already in the 19th Century that greenhouse gases cause global warming – it is standard physics. The warming was predicted and has been unfolding as predicted for the past decades. It is hard to grasp that we’re still talking, instead of cutting our emissions."
Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans and a Department Head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

"Carbon dioxide emissions cannot be allowed to continue to rise if humanity intends to limit the risk of unacceptable climate change. The task is urgent and the turning point must come soon. If we are to avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius warming, which many countries have already accepted as a goal, then emissions need to peak before 2020 and then decline rapidly."
Professor Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, USA.

"There are known feedbacks in the carbon cycle that are not yet quantified, but that could add extra warming. We need some leverage for surprises, 50% probability to stay under 2°C is not enough for a decent chance of success."
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia, and researcher at the British Antarctic Survey, UK.

For more information contact:
Alvin Stone +61 2 9385 8953 or alvin.stone@unsw.edu.au
Richard Somerville +1 619 977 2713 (mobile) or rsomerville@ucsd.edu
Corinne Le Quéré +44 789 0556096 (mobile) or c.lequere@uea.ac.uk
PIK Press Office +49 331 288 25 07 or press@pik-potsdam.de

Climate change accelerating beyond expectations, urgent emissions reductions required, say leading scientists

Tuesday, 24 November 2009 - 1500 UTC/GMT

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Global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea-ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast, according to a new global scientific synthesis prepared by some of the world’s top climate scientists.

In a special report called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’, the 26 researchers, most of whom are authors of published IPCC reports, conclude that several important aspects of climate change are occurring at the high end or even beyond the expectations of only a few years ago.  

The report also notes that global warming continues to track early IPCC projections based on greenhouse gas increases.  Without significant mitigation, the report says global mean warming could reach as high as 7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis, which was a year in the making, documents the key findings in climate change science since the publication of the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

The new evidence to have emerged includes:

  • Satellite and direct measurements now demonstrate that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea level rise at an increasing rate.
  • Arctic sea-ice has melted far beyond the expectations of climate models. For example, the area of summer sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
  • Sea level has risen more than 5 centimeters over the past 15 years, about 80% higher than IPCC projections from 2001. Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit by this time.  This is much higher than previously projected by the IPCC.  Furthermore, beyond 2100, sea level rise of several meters must be expected over the next few centuries.
  • In 2008 carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were ~40% higher than those in 1990. Even if emissions do not grow beyond today’s levels, within just 20 years the world will have used up the allowable emissions to have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to ten years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change.

To stabilize climate, global emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases need to reach near-zero well within this century, the report states.

The full report is available at  download.copenhagendiagnosis.org

Statements by Authors

"Sea level is rising much faster and Arctic sea ice cover shrinking more rapidly than we previously expected. Unfortunately, the data now show us that we have underesti­mated the climate crisis in the past."
Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans and a Department Head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

"Carbon dioxide emissions cannot be allowed to continue to rise if humanity intends to limit the risk of unacceptable climate change.  The task is urgent and the turning point must come soon. If we are to avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius warming, which many countries have already accepted as a goal, then emissions need to peak before 2020 and then decline rapidly."
Professor Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, USA.

"We have already almost exceeded the safe level of emissions that would ensure a reasonably secure climate future. Within just a decade global emissions need to be declining rapidly. A binding treaty is needed urgently to ensure unilateral action among the high emitters."
Professor Matthew England, ARC Federation Fellow and joint Director of the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of NSW, Australia.

"This is a final scientific call for the climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen. They need to know the stark truth about global warming and the unprecedented risks involved."
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU).

"The adjustment of glaciers to present climate alone is expected to raise sea level by approximately 18 centimeters. Under warming conditions glaciers may contribute as much as more than half a meter by 2100.”
Dr. Georg Kaser, Glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

“Warming of the oceans and increased uptake of CO2 is of increasing concern for the marine environment. The loss of biodiversity due to upper ocean warming, ocean acidification and ocean de-oxygenation will add dramatically to the existing threads of overfishing and marine pollution".
Professor Martin Visbeck, Professor of Physical Oceanography and Deputy Director of IFM-GEOMAR.

"The climate system does not provide us with a silver bullet. There is no escape but to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible."
Professor Nicolas Gruber, Professor for Environmental Physics, ETH Zürich.

"Climate change is coming out even clearer and more rapidly in the recent data. The human contribution is not in doubt."
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences, UK

"Climate change is accelerating towards the tipping points for polar ice sheets. That's why we're now projecting future sea level rise in metres rather than centimeters."
Professor Tim Lenton, University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences, UK

"Reducing tropical deforestation could prevent up to a fifth of human CO2 emissions, slowing climate change and helping to maintain some of the planet's most important hotspots of biodiversity."
Professor Peter Cox, Climate System Dynamics at the University of Exeter, UK

"New ice-core records confirm the importance of greenhouse gasses for past temperatures on Earth, and show that CO2 levels are higher now than they have ever been during the last 800,000 years. The last time Earth experienced CO2 levels this high was millions of years ago."
Professor Jane Francis, University of Leeds, UK

"The reconstruction of past climate reveals that recent warming in the Arctic and in the Northern Hemisphere is highly inconsistent with natural climate variability over the last 2000 years."
Dr Alan Haywood, Reader in Paleoclimatology, the University of Leeds, UK

For more information contact:

Asia & Australia

Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), University of New South Wales: ccrc@unsw.edu.au

North America

Mario Aguilera: scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
Richard Somerville: rsomerville@ucsd.edu
Andrew Weaver: weaver@uvic.ca

Europe

PIK Press Office: press@pik-potsdam.de

The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science.
I. Allison, N.L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G. Kaser, C. Le Quéré, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K. Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, A.J. Weaver. University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Sydney, Australia, 60pp.

Press conferences

Copenhagen

"Asger Jorn" Room, Hall H, Bella Centre.
Tuesday 15 December, 11:30am CET (10:30am UTC)

Materials
Presentation PDF 2.35 MB - Webcast

Second edition now available from Elsevier

Cover, 2nd edition

To obtain a copy of The Copenhagen Diagnosis Second Edition go to the Elsevier web site.


Download the first edition

Full report: High resolution PDF (23.3 MB)

Full report: Low resolution PDF (3.3 MB)

Figures: PDF (4.4 MB) - PPT (17.2 MB)

Read report online: Flip book

Printed copy: To obtain a printed copy please contact CCRC

Citation: The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the world on the Latest Climate Science. I. Allison, N. L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G. Kaser, C. Le Quéré, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K.Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, A.J. Weaver. The University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Sydney, Australia, 60pp.


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