Climate change: Key UN finding widely misinterpreted
According to scientists participating in the study, a significant result in the recent IPCC climate report has been widely misrepresented.
Researchers said in the document that greenhouse gas emissions are expected to peak “at the latest by 2025.”
This means that carbon levels could rise for another three years while the globe remains safe from severe warming.
However, scientists argue that this is erroneous and that emissions must be reduced quickly.
The IPCC’s most recent report focused on how to restrict or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which are the primary drivers of global warming.
The scientists wrote in a summary for policymakers that it was still possible to prevent the most severe levels of warming by keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.
This will require a herculean effort, with carbon emissions needing to drop by 43% by the end of this decade to stay below the danger level.
However, emissions must first hit a peak before falling, and it is in the language articulating this concept that the report becomes perplexing.
It’s partially because climate models used by scientists to forecast temperatures work in five-year increments, so 2025 follows 2020 without regard to the years in between.
The timing was another concern.
The mitigation report was delayed by nearly a year, although the data was based on models that predicted peaking in 2020.
“The headline statement couldn’t suggest emissions should have peaked by now, and governments wouldn’t let the report say emissions should have peaked in 2020,” said Dr Edward Byers of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, an IPCC contributing author.
This resulted in a lengthy dispute between scientists and government officials about the precise wording to use during the two-week long approval session.
One of the most difficult aspects of delivering complicated information about climate change is that media reporting of these events often has more sway than the research itself.
This concerns observer, who warn that giving countries the appearance that they may continue to increase emissions until 2025 will be disastrous for the planet.