U.N. report urges immediate action against climate change

By Matt Daray

The world’s climate is changing and it could mean big changes for all of us in the future, according to the foremost experts on climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations organization made up of scientist and political representatives from more than 110 governments, released a report March 25 in Japan which stated the world needs to take immediate and drastic action to combat climate change or the fundamental systems which support human civilization could be at risk. This report not only confirms humans are very likely behind the climate change, but the choices we make now could impact humanity’s future.


In the IPCC press conference on March 25 in Japan, Rajendra Pachairi, head of the IPCC for more than 12 years, said the results of this report need to push people to act.

“I hope these facts will – for want of a better word – jolt people into action,” he said.

The 2013 IPCC report, which is collected from multiple scientific reports and research around the world, is full of staggering differences from the panel’s last report collected in 2007. Among the most shocking information gathered is the amount sea level has risen as a result of melting ice – particularly from Greenland. The results nearly double the panel’s 2007 worst case scenario predications.

The report also shows negative impacts from climate change on crop yields, and climate an increase in ill-health in many regions, especially in developing countries with little income.

The report also finds 2013 was the 16th warmest year ever recorded. It also states 13 of the 14 hottest recorded years on the planet have come in the 21st century.

The findings of this report, among others, agree humanity is playing a part in global climate change and immediate action needs to be taken to prevent dramatic global changes from climate in the future.

Many factors can go into climate change, according to some experts.


Kenneth Heideman, director of publications and former president of the American Meteorological Society, said climate can change because of a multitude of factors, some of which humans cannot control.

“There are anthropomorphic factors (such as) pollution and fossil-fuel consumption adding Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and factors that have nothing to do with humans, which are attributable to changes in the Earth’s orbit and the Sun’s activity over very long periods of time,” he said in an email.

Heideman said global climate change is a concern people should be aware of as it can lead to shrinking of the arctic ice cap, rising sea levels, warmer average global temperature, more severe storms, changing of plant, animal and insect habits and changes in agriculture production. He said it’s possible for the average person to help lower the global climate temperature by driving and flying less to reduce their carbon footprint, or greenhouse gas emissions a person can cause, and to recycle whenever possible.

Audrey Wagner, a geography and environmental resources lecturer at SIU, said humanity has played a role in climate change whether we want to admit it or not.

“Definitely,” she said. “It’s not a matter of me believing it but all the vast majority of the science (field) says that’s the case and 97 percent of published climate science reports … indicate the fact that humanity’s emissions into the atmosphere are responsible for the trends of temperatures, including the recent set of warmest years.”

Wagner said it’s hard for the average person to get proper information on global climate change because there is plenty of misinformation out there. She said this makes it hard for people to be aware of climate change or even take it seriously.

Climate change can have an impact on weather and the amount of severe weather the world can receive, Wagner said.

“Think about it in the terms of the amount of energy that’s in our system,” she said. “Weather is basically the transfer of energy throughout the planet and so if there is more energy in the system, we will get bigger differences from one place to another and that leads to more rapid energy transfer.”

Wagner said scientists are still determining if this winter’s “polar vortex” was a result of severe weather caused by climate change, but it is possible. She said even though some areas received large amounts of snow, this year was a very warm winter particularly in Alaska, which experienced record-high temperatures.

However, the topic of climate change should be discussed more than it has been, Wagner said.

“I think it’s something that needs to be addressed properly,” she said. “I don’t think it’s hopeless, but I do think it’s urgent.”

Matt Daray can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 254.