Article | Last updated: 2014-12-10 | Ministry of Climate and Environment
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that most of the global warming has been caused by human activities. Since pre-industrial times the world has become about 0.8 degrees warmer. The warming is expected to continue throughout this century and entails greater risk of extreme weather, more rainfall, floods and ocean acidification. Climate change has serious consequences. The emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced. It requires major changes in energy supply, industry, the transport sector, forest management and food production.
According to the IPCC increasing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from power generation, industry, farming, cars and aircraft, among others, have contributed to the CO2 content of the atmosphere being higher than it has been in the last 800,000 years. Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere strengthen the greenhouse effect that is causing the world to become warmer. Much of the energy that has been collected in the climate system and the greenhouse gases that have been released, have been absorbed by the ocean and vegetation on land. This works as a buffer to the global warming. But when the ocean absorbs CO2 it becomes more acidic at the same time. According to the IPCC it has already become 26 per cent more acidic since the beginning of the industrial era. In turn, the ocean acidification affects many organisms that live in the ocean, and may eventually lead to major consequences for ecosystems and thus for the fisheries as well.
Global sea levels are rising
If the growth in greenhouse gas emissions continues, the world may become 3.7 - 4.8 degrees warmer than it was in pre-industrial times over the course of this century. The warming is occurring about twice as quickly in the Arctic region, and the Arctic Ocean may be almost ice-free in the summertime by 2050. Global warming is causing substantial loss of ice from glaciers on land, on Greenland and in parts of Antarctica. The ocean is also being heated, and expands as a result of the heating. In conjunction with an increased supply of water from melting ice this leads to rising sea levels. Since 1850 the average global sea level has risen by about 19 centimetres. The IPCC has estimated that sea levels could rise by up to one metre this century, if we do not succeed in substantially reducing global emissions.
The effects of the climate change may be that extreme weather such as flooding, heat waves and droughts occur more often and with greater intensity. Exposed areas of land will be flooded and may be lost when sea levels rise. Nature and many species are affected. The climate change alters the livelihoods for many, for example through weakened food security and that certain diseases spread faster.
Risk grows with increasing global warming
The more the temperature rises, the greater the risk that climate change has serious and irreversible consequences.
Norway will also be affected by the climate change
The poorest countries are most vulnerable. But climate change also affects Norway. Rainfall in Norway has increased by about 20 per cent during the last hundred years, and the rainfall has become more intense. This heightens the risk of flooding, for example, and affects food production. The climate change is expected to affect Norway and the world to an increasing extent in the years ahead. It will require us to adapt to the changes more actively. Nature-based industries such as farming, fishing and tourism are particularly vulnerable. Climate change adaptation will be important in reducing the risk that climate change will cause substantial costs or loss of life.
Two degrees target is demanding
Almost all the countries in the world have endorsed the goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It is a demanding goal. From 2000 to 2010 the global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen by over two per cent per year. If the two degrees target is to be met, the growth must be stopped in a few years, and subsequently replaced by a permanent reduction in the emissions in the amount of three per cent per year on average until 2050. If implementation of new emission-reducing measures is postponed until 2030, the necessary reduction in emissions between 2030 and 2050 will be about six per cent per year. This will be much more onerous and costly over the long term, and shows how critical it is for further emission-reducing measures to be implemented during the next few years.
Climate policy entails major changes
It will require major changes in energy supply. Coal power must be replaced by renewable energy or other climate-friendly forms of energy. Alternatively, the CO2 emissions from fossil power production must be cleaned and sequestered underground on a large scale. In the transport sector today's passenger cars must be replaced with zero emission vehicles such as electric cars. For heavy transport, ships and aircraft today's fossil fuels must be replaced with sustainable forms of biofuels, electricity or hydrogen. Industry must utilise emission-free production methods where possible and profitable.
Forest and farming play key roles
Every year the forests in Norway absorb CO2 from the atmosphere that is equivalent to about 60 per cent of Norwegian emissions. Increased utilisation of the forests as carbon storage and agricultural activities with as low greenhouse gas emissions as possible are crucial elements in the climate policy.