The scientists had been charged by the IPCC, which had been set up two years earlier, with establishing whether climate change was a real prospect and, if it was, to look at the main drivers of that threat. They concluded, in a report released in August 1990, that the menace was real and that coal, gas and oil would be the principal causes of global heating. Unless controls were imposed on their consumption, temperature rises of 0.3C a decade would be occurring in the 21st century, bringing havoc in their wake.
Three decades later, it is clear that we have recklessly ignored that warning. Fossil fuels still supply 80% of the world’s energy, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise and global temperatures are still increasing. According to Met Office statistics, there was a 0.14C increase in global temperatures in the decade that followed publication of the first assessment report. This was then followed by a 0.2C increase in each of the following two decades. The world could easily heat by 3C by the end of the century at this rate, warn scientists.
The impact on the world will, by then, be catastrophic. As the Observer reveals this week, our overheating planet has already lost a staggering 28tn tonnes of ice from its ice sheets and glaciers, triggering sea level rises that are now accelerating at a rate that matches the worst-case scenario predictions of the IPCC.The Observer view on the climate catastrophe facing Earth | Observer editorial | Opinion | The Guardian