Climate Change: too late for 2 degrees? Presentation of IPCC scientist

Dr. Thomas Stocker, Co- Chair of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)  Working Group 1 and candidate for the IPCC Presidency, visited Costa Rica to meet with Government officials and gave a public presentation on 14 August 2015 at the Costa Rican Lawyers Bar Association. This event was organized by the University for Peace, the Swiss Embassy in collaboration with the Costa Rican Lawyers Bar Association, the Earth Charter International Secretariat, and Costa Rica Limpia.

Dr. Stocker is a physicist and head of the department of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. The focus of Dr. Stocker’s research is the development of models of climate change based on, among others, the analysis of ice cores from the polar regions. He significantly contributed to creating the “hockey stick graph” that shows a growing increase of global mean temperatures in recent times.

In his presentation, Dr. Stocker shared the latest findings on the global climate change situation, which are incorporated in the synthesis report that the IPCC publishes for policy makers. He mentioned that there was an effort to include simple and easy to understand statements about the current situation, showing that global warming is unequivocally occuring and that it is due mainly to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

This first graph shows evidence from analyzing the ice cores of Antartica, where the levels of CO2 have fluctuated in the last 1,000 years but in very clear boundaries, except the last 100 years during which the increase has exceeded the previous limits.  

Taking a closer look, one can see that there has been a 65% increase of the levels of CO2 in the last 20 years, since the Rio 1992 Summit.

One of the most important contributions of the IPCC report is to establish a link between the increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and its effects on the oceans, water cycle, increasing the likelihood of extreme natural events, global mean sea level, sea ice, decreasing ice sheets, and increased land temperature.

For Costa Rica, one of the biggest impacts will be on the water cycle, where projections show there will be a decrease in precipitation.

The Report presents two scenarios, one, where we continue with business as usual, no changes are made, therefore an estimated 4.5°C increase in the global temperature will be expected. The other scenario is that the increase in global temperature will be of 2°C if measures are taken.

For this scenario, the carbon budget is 790 bill t C. But by the end of 2014, we had already used 545 bill t C. In 2014 alone, we emitted 10.1 bill t C. So, there is a lot of pressure to reduce greenhouse gases now, or else in 20 years we may have reached a point where scientists are not sure whether the conditions for life on Earth would be feasible.