Environment Minister Phil Gawne MHK has spoken out after international scientists re-affirmed their belief that human beings were largely responsible for climate change.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report looked at the physical science basis for climate change and stated that it was ‘extremely likely’ that people were responsible for what was happening.
Among its finding were:
The highest land and sea surface temperatures for centuries
Greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels for at least the last 800,000 years
Decreased spring snow cover
Polar ice sheets losing mass
Rising deep ocean temperatures
Sea level rise accelerating
Ocean acidification continuing
They concluded that multiple lines of evidence showed that the planet was warming and scientists were more certain than ever that manmade greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from changes in land use had been the dominant cause since the mid 20th century.
Mr Gawne said: ‘Mitigating further climate change is in our own interest and it also provides opportunities.
‘We could profit by letting our sea bed for renewable energy generation and locally grown biomass provides us with a sustainable source of renewable energy and, importantly, the money we spend on it stays in our economy, rather than being lost off the island.
‘Developing the technology required to shift to a low-carbon society is not something we can do on our own, but fortunately much of this work is already being carried out elsewhere and we will benefit directly from that, for example through increasingly efficient vehicles.
‘Of utmost importance, though, is adapting to the effects of climate change which are already inevitable due to historic emissions of greenhouse gasses. We must consider the impacts of climate change on our existing and planned infrastructure, businesses and communities and ensure we make adaptation easier for future generations, through the actions we take now.’
At previous climate change negotiations the international community has agreed that average temperature increases needed to be limited to 2C to avoid ‘dangerous levels of climate change’.
This latest report adds an extra dimension by stating that it is ‘likely’ we will limit warming to this threshold if we limit cumulative emissions of greenhouse gasses to 800 Giga tonnes since the year 1870.
Given the length of time emissions such as carbon dioxide remain in the atmosphere, this effectively suggests a cap on the total amount of emissions which can be released by mankind.
The likelihood of limiting warming to 2C falls to ‘unlikely’ if emissions are allowed to reach 880 Giga tonnes leaving little room for manoeuvre.
By 2011 man-made emissions are estimated to have totalled over 530 Giga tonnes meaning we have effectively spent two thirds of our allowance already.
In May Tynwald unanimously agreed a target of reducing the island’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 based on 1990 levels, thereby aligning our policy with many neighbouring jurisdictions.
Two further reports by the IPCC will follow in March and April next year. The first will address the impacts of, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, and the second will look at mitigation.