Today the Royal Society released a joint communiqué on climate change, alongside 23 of the UK’s leading academic institutions. The communiqué outlines the risks posed by climate change and highlights what would be needed to tackle it.
The scientific evidence tells us that if we want to limit climate change to 2°C relative to the pre-industrial period, then emissions need to be stabilised and reduced rapidly, eventually moving to a zero-carbon world by early in the second half of this century.
The scale of the shift required should not be underestimated and will require long term political commitment as well as short term action.
Although it outlines the risks and scale of action required, the communiqué also highlights that mitigating and adapting to climate change can actually be a big opportunity, with a whole range of possible benefits.
The last few months have seen a host of studies that point to some of these.
The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change report launched in June found that while climate change presents a major challenge to global health, tackling it also represents the biggest opportunity for health of the 21st century. For example, reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn will result in improvements in local air pollution with subsequent respiratory health benefits.
Climate change adaptation options would help us to better deal with the extreme weather that we already currently face.
Two weeks ago, the New Climate Economy launched their second report. The first concluded that reducing the risks of climate change can be achieved at the same time as building lasting economic growth. This second report subsequently identified 10 areas of opportunity for stronger action on climate change that would also have additional economic benefits.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre found similar results – that global emissions can be reduced in line with what’s required whilst being a positive force on the economy.
This is also recognised by businesses. The We Mean Business coalition wrote to Governments ahead of the G7 meeting in June, calling for a clear signal from governments at the climate negotiations later this year, not just for the sake of preventing climate change but because it makes business sense.
The impact of people and our lifestyles on the world we live in, and how we respond to these impacts, are huge issues. They require society to have important discussions, not just about what kind of energy sources we want to use, but about the kind of world we want to live in.
These discussions need to be based on the best available science – our best understanding of what the impacts of climate change might be but also what our options are for responding, from adaptation strategies to the technologies, behaviours and systems that will deliver mitigation.
With the communiqué, the organisations involved commit to being involved in that discussion.
For those of you interested in learning more about the science of why the climate is changing, you can read our commonly asked questions about climate change, answered by leading climate scientists.