The island must take a stance on climate change - and not use our small size as an excuse for doing nothing.
That’s the message from Environment Minister Phil Gawne who welcomed a visit by Professor Thomas Stocker, one of the world’s leading experts in
climate change and its effects on the planet.
Professor Stocker co-chairs ‘Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Its Summary for Policymakers – based on a 1,535-page report assessing more than 9,000 scientific publications – was approved by IPCC-member governments in September last year.
The Professor of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern’s Physics Institute in Switzerland addressed gatherings of Manx politicians, environmental groups and the public this month.
Mr Gawne said: ‘Governments around the world agree the effects on the planet from burning fossil fuels are already being seen and substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are necessary to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
‘Some feel that as we are such a small nation we can’t possibly make a difference, so we should sit back and let others do all the work, but it is difficult to argue that we should be entitled to produce more than our fair share of greenhouse gases. We owe it to the generations to come to take a mature approach to this and to take action.’
During his visit, Professor Stoker raised three main questions - is the human influence on the climate proved? If so, why haven’t temperatures risen significantly over the past 15 years? Will rising sea levels be a problem for the Isle of Man?
He said there was ‘no physical mechanism other than the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that can explain the warming that has been measured worldwide since 1950, the rapid reduction of summer sea ice in the Arctic, the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the extra energy that is stored in the ocean and many other fingerprints observed around the world’.
The Professor said: ‘Sea level is projected to rise between 0.26 metres to 0.55 metres (if global average temperature rise is kept to 2°C), or 0.45 metres to 0.82 metres by the end of the 21st century under a ‘business as usual’ scenario. This rise, together with the occurrence of high sea level events, will pose major challenges for erodable coast lines.’
Mr Gawne said: ‘You can imagine the additional impact that storm surges such as those experienced this year will have as sea levels increase. ‘This is why my department is developing policy to mitigate against further climate change and adapt to the effects of unavoidable climate change. It was great to hear first-hand from an expert of the global standing of Professor Stocker and we will invite more leading speakers to our island to help us better understand this issue.’