The paper assesses that the "tipping point" where we reach the point of no return and we no longer have any ability to correct the changes we've made is where the temperature rises by 2C, caused by 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere (prior to the industrial revolution, it was 280ppm). We're at 379 and adding 2ppm each year - and that rate is only increasing. The report even suggests that past this tipping point, we may create a runaway effect. Put simply, once you reach that point, the ice caps melt, putting yet more CO2 into the atmosphere, effects such as ending the Gulf Stream and widespread crop failure occur, and even the forests which now act as carbon sinks begin to instead put carbon into the atmosphere.
It's a frightening prospect, and while the current administration works to push the position that climate change is not even happening, science is becoming so certain that it is able to put a timescale on the problem.
"There is an ecological timebomb ticking away," said Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary, who co-chaired the task force that produced the report with the US Republican senator Olympia Snowe. It was assembled by the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK, the Centre for American Progress in the US, and The Australia Institute.The group's chief scientific adviser is Dr Rakendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.
"What this underscores is that it's what we invest in now and in the next 20 years that will deliver a stable climate, not what we do in the middle of the century or later," said Tom Burke, a former government adviser on green issues who now advises business.
The time to act is now. Write to your representative and tell them so.