Washington, D.C.—Approximately 20-30 percent of plant and
animal species are at increasing risk of extinction if the global average
temperature increases by another 2.2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a
major consensus report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC). The IPCC is a United
Nations body charged with assessing the scientific record on global warming.
droughts, floods, forest fires, and heat waves are in store for us and for future
generations, unless we act boldly to reduce global warming pollution. This consensus report from the world’s
scientists should be a direct challenge to the U.S. Congress. It paints a clear and disturbing picture of
the consequences of failing to take serious action,” said Ben Dunham, Staff
Attorney for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The panel concludes “with high confidence” that
human-caused warming over the last three decades “has had a discernible
influence on many physical and biological systems.” While the report warns of increasing droughts,
floods, heat waves, water stress, forest fires, and coastal flooding in the
U.S., it finds that “many impacts can be avoided, reduced, or delayed” by quickly
and significantly reducing global warming pollution.
Cars and power plants are the largest sources of U.S. global warming pollution, but the U.S. could
reduce its emissions immediately using on-the-shelf technologies to improve
energy efficiency and shift to renewable energy sources.
Major findings of today’s report for North
America include the following:
STRESS: “Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased
snowpack, more winter flooding, and reduced summer flows, exacerbating
competition for over-allocated water resources.”
- FOREST FIRES:
“Disturbances from pests, diseases, and fire are projected to have
increasing impacts on forests, with an extended period of high fire risk
and large increases in area burned.”
- HEAT WAVES:
Cities that currently experience heat waves are expected to face “an
increased number, intensity, and duration of heat waves,” threatening
people’s health, particularly that of elder Americans.
In addition, the report points to large-scale climate events that
have the potential to “cause very large impacts,” including the at least
partial deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West
Antarctic ice sheet, raising sea levels by 13 to 20 feet over centuries to
“This report makes clear that we are going down a
dangerous road. Fortunately, there is
still time to choose another direction—toward better energy efficiency and more
renewable energy. Congress should lead
the way by passing strong legislation to reduce global warming pollution enough
to avoid the nightmare scenarios in this report,” added Dunham.
The IPCC today released the Summary for Policymakers of the second volume of its Fourth
Assessment Report, entitled “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” The
second volume synthesizes the peer-reviewed research on the current and
predicted impacts of global warming on human health, the environment, and
wildlife. Additional volumes, examining
options for reducing future warming and a final synthesis report, are due out
later this year. The full Fourth Assessment Report includes input from
more than 2,500 experts worldwide.
The IPCC was established by the United Nations
Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 with a
mandate to assess the state of knowledge on global warming on a “comprehensive,
objective, open and transparent basis” and to generate documents that reflect a
consensus among those involved. In 1990, 1995, and 2001, the IPCC issued
its prior assessments.
Dunham also noted that the report is inherently
conservative because it reflects the consensus of hundreds of parties,
including industry groups and governments opposed to taking action to reduce
global warming pollution.
U.S. PIRG is the federation of state
Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan
public interest advocacy organizations.