Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presents climate change report

Altmaier calls for determined action – Wanka reaffirms priority of climate research

Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka see the IPCC's latest report as a sure sign that of the onward march of climate change. 'The IPCC makes it clear to the global community that there is no alternative to an ambitious climate response programme,' said Altmaier following the presentation of the IPCC report in Stockholm. 'Research is the key to understanding climate change. The IPCC report is the world's most important assessment report on climate research,' emphasised Wanka. The report just presented is the first part of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. Hundreds of scientists were involved in producing it, including 40 researchers from Germany.

In its reports for the United Nations, the IPCC sets out the current state of scientific knowledge about climate change. The results of international climate research confirm without a doubt that climate change is continuing. A wide variety of changes are taking place in the climate system as a whole: not only is the temperature of the lower atmosphere rising, but the oceans are getting warmer, glaciers are melting, permafrost soils are thawing, ice caps are dwindling, and the sea level is continuing to rise. The report also provides definite confirmation that greenhouse gases due to human activities are responsible for the greater part of the climate changes observed. Considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be necessary to limit global warming.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier called for more ambitious action on climate change: 'By taking determined action we can still prevent warming from exceeding two degrees. This is an important message for the international negotiations on climate change mitigation. An ambitious new agreement has to be negotiated by 2015. The EU must play a leading role here. This means we urgently need to strengthen the emissions trading scheme, sharpen the EU's climate objectives and agree on an ambitious climate action target for 2030.’ The IPCC's findings, he said, were also of direct importance for national climate policy. 'In its Energy Concept, the German Government has set itself ambitious climate objectives. The target of cutting emissions in Germany by between 80 and 95 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 is based on calculations by the IPCC. With our "

Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka said in Berlin: 'It is clear that we do not yet have conclusive answers to all climate change issues. So we must not slacken our efforts in the field of climate research. This is an area of research funding where I see a clear priority.' Since the last IPCC report, the Federal Research Ministry has invested some €490 million in climate research. Wanka stressed that the new report provided important pointers to gaps in the research effort. 'We will now carry out a thorough evaluation of the report and investigate where targeted research funding can be used to enable scientists to supply the missing answers.'

Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency, drew attention to central messages in the report: 'The global average temperature of the lower atmosphere has already risen by 0.85 degrees Celsius since the end of the 19th century. Each of the last three decades was warmer than all preceding decades since 1850. Numerous extreme weather events are also providing evidence of changes. For example, heat waves have become more frequent in some regions.' As a result of the continued melting of glaciers and ice caps and the expansion of the warmer water in the oceans, the global average sea level rose by about 19 centimetres between 1901 and 2010. The pace of this rise has grown even faster in the last 20 years. In the last decade, six times as much of the Greenland ice sheet melted as in the ten years before that. 'The information in the World Climate Report is more reliable and more soundly based than in the 2007 report. It indicates a great need for action.'

Prof. Peter Lemke of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, had this to add: 'Information about possible future climate developments has become more reliable and more certain on the basis of expanded and improved models. Further unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases can be expected to produce marked changes in many parts of the climatic system on a scale that has not occurred for hundreds or even thousands of years.' These include rainfall, ice and snow, some extreme weather events, rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans. All regions of the Earth would be affected. Many of the changes in the climatic system would persist for centuries, even if no more greenhouse gases were emitted.

The report notes that the global rise in the temperature of near-surface air in the past 15 years was slower than in the preceding decades. However, this cannot be taken as an indication that the pace of global climate change is slackening. It involves short-term changes which are largely due to natural fluctuations and which are superimposed on the long-term warming trend. Moreover, the melting of the glaciers, the warming of the oceans, the melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean and many other factors provide further evidence that the climate is still getting warmer.

The report is the first of three parts of the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report. The second volume is concerned with climate change impacts and adaptation issues, while the third looks at options for action to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions. Their publication is scheduled for late March and mid-April 2014 respectively.