'Irreversible' Damage to Planet From Climate Change Says Leaked IPCC Report
Climate change is here, man-made and already having dangerous impacts, according to leaked drafts of the upcoming UN climate science report.
The 127-page final draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows the effects of global warming are already being felt across all continents and the oceans.
It warns that further emission rises will increase the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
The report will be finalised after governments and scientists go over it line-by-line at a meeting in Copenhagen in October.
The leaked report, which has been circulated to several media outlets, shows temperatures have already increased by 0.85°C since 1880—a more rapid shift in the climate than that which heralded the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.
It also raises the risk that climate change and its impacts could worsen violent conflicts and refugee problems, hinder efforts to grow more food and threaten public health.
Ocean acidification, which comes from the added carbon absorbed by the oceans, could also harm marine life, the draft warns.
“Climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century” without sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it says.
It is hoped the new report will focus minds ahead of the global UN climate talks to take place in Lima, Peru in December, where governments are expected to lay the groundwork for the crucial Paris Summit in late 2015.
It is here where countries have agreed to finalise a new global treaty on climate change.
In 2009, countries had agreed to set a goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C—the international agreed danger threshold for climate change.
However, the leaked IPCC report warns it is increasingly likely the world will shoot past this point, and that limiting warming to within this level would require dramatic and immediate cuts in carbon pollution.
Without action to limit the levels of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, it warns temperatures could increase by 2°C by mid-century compared to 1986 to 2005.
But the end of the century, that scenario could bring temperatures that are 3.7°C warming, it warns.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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