The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming reads like a horror flick. The findings are frightening, especially if action is not taken.
The study was presented in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The product was the result of the work of ninety-one scientists from forty countries. They reviewed and analyzed 6,000 scientific papers. International governments have two months to review before the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland.
The 2015 Paris Agreement was approved to set limits on global temperature rise from 1.5˚C to 2˚C (2.7˚F to 3.6˚F). This latest report drives home the deadly difference half a degree can make.
The top takeaway is that to inhibit warming to 1.5˚C, a major global transformation will have to be undertaken. It needs to be swift and far-reaching. Low-carbon technology and efficacy has to be increased exponentially, five times the rate of what was achieved in 2015.
The findings underscore that a warming rate of 1˚C has already delivered significant damage to the oceans and low-lying areas. World health is impacted, with elevated detriments to those who are economically disadvantaged. This has been evidenced by food insecurity and population displacement.
Examples illustrate the differences that result from a 2˚C global increase in warming as compared to a 1.5˚C measurement. It’s not encouraging. Examples include:
- 6x worse extreme heat.
- 2x worse species loss of vertebrates and plants.
- Up to 29% worse for coral reef decline.
The scientific models lay out the variables in attacking the problem. One possibility is the approach of exceeding the desired 1.5˚C threshold for several years, and then revert to lower temperatures. That might work in some situations, but if the “overshoot” takes place it’s a region with a precarious ecosystem and the negative impact is likely to be irreversible. So even if 1.5˚C is reestablished, there could be species extinction during the “overshoot period.”
Also pointed out is that different reduction activities yield different results. In the case of industrial black carbon being reduced at an accelerated rate, the diminishment of snow and ice in the Arctic can be modified.
Since the pre-Industrial era, the world has become 1˚C hotter. This has resulted in a substantial melting of Arctic sea ice and an 8-inch rise in sea levels since 1880.
Making fast and extensive change is going to take enormous political will. The longer change is delayed, the more damage will ensue – and that includes financial loss. The study outlined estimates of economic fallout around the globe from warming:
- $54 trillion if the earth warms by 1.5˚C by 2100
- $69 trillion if the earth warms by 2˚C by 2100
Typically, the cost of making changes now is presented as an attack on the economy. However, studies have posited that fighting climate change could actually boost the international economy.
So, what kind of adjustments have to be undertaken to get the ball rolling to effect a robust difference? There are several paths that can lead to traction:
- Eliminating fossil fuels is a no-brainer. Net CO2 emissions must hit the zero mark by 2050, although achieving that marker a decade earlier is the central to reaching the 1.5˚C goal.
- Activating specific strategies to pull carbon out of the air such as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).
- Taxing carbon dioxide emissions.
- Cutting short-lived but highly potent climate pollutants dramatically. This points to methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC).
- Increasing energy efficiency and lowering the demand for energy. Electric cars become mainstream. Urban planning implements green solutions.
Food and Agriculture
- Changing the way food is produced, the amount of waste that takes place, and reevaluating diet impacts on climate change.
- Agriculture is related to almost one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (2010).
- Deforestation, which adds to 10 percent of the world’s emissions, must end and landscapes need to be restored. This is termed a “Net-negative emissions quest.” (Forests are being demolished to grow crops like soy and oil palms.)
- Agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of tropical deforestation.
- Agriculture depends on 70 % of all “freshwater withdrawn from rivers lakes, and aquifers.”
Can the top industrialized nations lead the way when the United States, under the Trump administration, refuses to accept “settled science?” What about the influence of groups looking to maintain their bottom lines? (The World Coal Association wasted no time in commenting on the IPCC findings.)
America, the world’s largest economy, is also the second largest greenhouse gas emitter (China is first). Ironically, both of these countries will be in line for intense coastal flooding by 2040.
Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II noted succinctly:
“The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future. This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”
All this horror will come down on most of our children, all of our grandchildren—and many, many of us. As Dominique said in yesterday’s post,
“We are talking about a fight for climate safety. The fight of our lives, and our children’s lives.”