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release of ‘Final Synthesis’ report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Science Media Centre asked climate change experts to comment on the 4th and final report from the UN’s climate science panel, which summarises the findings of the three more comprehensive reports released earlier this year.


Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said:

“It’s clear from the IPCC’s report that climate change has the long-term potential to be a global disaster. However, the report must not engender despair. Rather, it must galvanise a truly international effort to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And we must also adapt to those effects we cannot avoid. There will be significant economic, social and environmental advantages for those nations with the vision to realise the opportunities of a new low carbon future.”


Prof Roger Kemp FREng, Engineering Department, Lancaster University, said:

“The IPCC Synthesis Report, issued in November 2007, adds another level of certainty to an already alarming picture and clearly demonstrates that the need is for action to reduce emissions, not another round of even more detailed analyses and negotiations.

“Making a dramatic change to the energy use of buildings will require far more than changing to low-energy bulbs and unrolling glass-fibre in the roof space. While it is possible to design new “zero-carbon” buildings which can be replicated many times in new developments, the rate of renewal of the British built environment is very low and re-engineering the great diversity of existing buildings will be more challenging. There will be a need for thousands of suitably-trained engineers and technicians to improve the great diversity of buildings to reduce energy use and decide on the most appropriate heating, cooling and lighting systems, as well as the control systems to go with them.

“Engineering can contribute to a reduction in emissions by the development of new technologies but there will also have to be a change in culture to conserve energy, far more profound than unplugging a phone charger or switching a TV off standby.”


Dr Dave Reay, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, said:

“Next month in Bali the politicians must agree a post-Kyoto roadmap for the world’s climate; in this Synthesis Report they have their driving manual.”


Prof Bob Spicer, Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research, Open University, said:

“This is a tremendous achievement, but it has to be remembered that because of the political element in the process and the fact that the geological record of how the real Earth system has actually behaved in the past has been largely ignored, the predictions for any given emissions scenario are likely to be underestimates, the most benign view, of future change. Those areas undergoing most rapid change now (the Arctic and continental interiors) are likely to be where the biggest errors in the predictions lie.

“This has worrying implications for poorly understood processes, which are downplayed in the IPCC because they cannot be quantified sufficiently to pass political vetting, because they at the heart of climate-related phenomena that significantly impact human well-being such as agricultural productivity and sea-level rise.”


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