BES joins learned societies’ call for action on climate change

The BES has today joined twenty-three other learned societies, academic and professional institutions to call for national governments to take immediate action in order to avert the serious risks posed by climate change.

Organisations from across the sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities including the Royal Society, British Academy and the Wellcome Trust have come together for the first time to publish a joint communique affirming the strength of the scientific consensus on climate change and the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. The latest evidence suggests that if we are to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming in this century to 2°C relative to the pre-industrial period, we must transition to a zero-carbon world – achieving net zero global carbon emissions – by early in the second half of the century.

Finding a way to keeping global warming below 2°C will be the central aim of this Autumn’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, when the world’s governments will meet from 30th November to 11th December to negotiate a new legally binding international agreement. The joint call to action coincides with a ministerial meeting in Paris involving 48 countries, which hopes to quicken progress towards an agreement. The French government has indicated that the Paris agreement should be “short, flexible and long-lasting” in order to avoid complex future re-negotiations.

The communique states that in order to deliver an effective agreement, governments must recognise the risks climate change poses, embrace appropriate policy and technological responses, and seize the opportunities of low-carbon and climate-resilient growth.

Climate change will have a significant ecological impact over the course of the century, and its effects are already being felt. The most recent IPCC report found that climate change is already affecting many organisms, including their geographical ranges, migration patterns, abundances and interactions, and will increase extinction risk for a large fraction of species. Speaking to Carbon Brief on behalf of the BES, Plymouth University’s Professor Camille Parmesan, winner of this year’s Marsh Award for Climate Change Research, said: “We’re already seeing contraction of species in the most sensitive ecosystems, such as those dependent on sea ice or those living on mountain tops. We’re also seeing declines in some tropical systems, such as coral reefs, and the valuable services they provide for fish nurseries, tourism and coastal protection.”

The UK has taken a leading role on climate change, with the 2008 Climate Change Act establishing the world’s first legally binding target for emissions reduction. Reaching an agreement in Paris is a priority for the new Conservative government, with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, recently stating that “a global deal is the only way both to deliver the scale of action required and to drive down the costs of climate action; so Paris 2015 is both a serious opportunity to avoid its catastrophic effects and to open up new avenues for low carbon industries.”

The communique is clear that action on climate change is urgent and imperative: “Actions need to be taken now, by governments, individuals, businesses, local communities and public institutions, if we are to tackle this global challenge, deliver the cuts in emissions, and take maximum advantage of the available opportunities and additional benefits”.

Read the Climate Communique

Read more on The Guardian and Carbon Brief