Switching energy production from coal and oil to renewable energy sources, while making maximum use of natural gas as a bridge to facilitate the change, would help to mitigate the effects of rising carbon levels, according to the report.
Global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change, it noted. Emissions rose more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.
But switching to renewable energy sources – such as wind and wave power – along with changes in energy consumption behaviour would enable the increase in global mean temperature to be limited to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “However, only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold,” warned the report’s authors.
Ottmar Edenhofer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of a working group responsible for the report, outlined the scale of the challenge. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Edenhofer.
“Scenarios show that to have a likely chance of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40–70% compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century,” he added. “Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
Cutting carbon dioxide emissions would require “substantial investments”, said the report’s authors. But the costs could be limited by avoiding further delays in taking action to remedy emmissions and using a broad range of technologies.
Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation vary widely. “In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6–3% per year,” said the IPCC. “Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by around 0.06 percentage points a year. However, the underlying estimates do not take into account economic benefits of reduced climate change.”
Meanwhile the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said manufacturers were making good progress towards achieving the goals set out in its Five-fold Environmental Ambition initiative in 2007.
Speaking before the publication of the IPCC report, Terry Jones, FDF director of communications, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The overwhelming body of scientific evidence points to a changing climate and a warming climate and that is what we have been responding to as an industry.”
Last year the FDF confirmed the progress it had made towards: cutting carbon dioxide emissions, food and packaging waste sent to landfill and water use and embedding environmental standards in transport practices.
Its Five-fold Environmental Ambition: Progress Report 2013 confirmed: a 32% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, a 10% reduction in the carbon impact of packaging, a 16.1% cut in water use, a 7.4% reduction in supply chain waste and a 2.8% reduction in the carbon dioxide transmissions from road transport.
More information about the report – Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change – published on Sunday (April 13) is available here.