Climate change is taking hold and will bring worrying impacts—but there is still time to limit the damage. That, in a nutshell, is the message delivered by a new report that synthesizes the findings of three massive studies issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past year. The Synthesis Report, released today at a meeting in Copenhagen, caps work on the fifth assessment of climate science and mitigation that the IPCC has completed since 1990.
The report demonstrates that “we have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, in a statement. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. 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.”
The synthesis report wraps together highlights from the three earlier reports, on:
potential climate impacts, and ways to adapt and reduced vulnerability, released in March 2014; and
strategies to mitigate climate impacts, released in April 2014.
It is the product of a sometimes contentious negotiating process over wording and emphasis and draws on the work of more than 800 scientists. The report is designed to make state-of-the-art thinking about climate change available to policy makers and the public.
Although the new report’s “core findings aren’t new, [it] makes them clearer than ever, and they are worth underscoring,” said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Arlington, Virginia–based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, in a statement. “The core message from the IPCC is the growing urgency of action. … The scientists have done their job. Now it’s up to governments to do theirs.”
In particular, advocates for government action on climate change are focusing on a new round of international negotiations on some kind global climate pact. In December, nations meet in Peru to talk over some options, with the goal of arriving at a final agreement at a meeting in Paris in December 2015. It’s unclear, however, whether the new IPCC report can help overcome the political and economic obstacles that have blocked major movement of reducing emissions.