Warnings from the IPCC Report
On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most recent report on global warming. The IPCC was formed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to better assess climate change. And assess they did! Thousands of climate scientists from all over the world, spent years analyzing the data and investigating the evidence. If you’re interested in the process itself, the BBC does a pretty good job of covering that.
The take-away from the IPCC report is abundantly clear. Due to human activity and the over-use of fossil fuels, the world is warming at an increasingly rapid rate. Frighteningly, it’s actually changing faster than was initially anticipated. Action is clearly needed in response to the dire scientific warnings. This is a climate crisis. We therefore need to treat it as such, while there’s still time to do something about it.
The IPCC Breakdown
The IPCC report is focused on better understanding the science of climate change. Specifically, how much the planet has heated, and what continued heating would mean for all life on earth. The report is meant to provide guidance for government action. It is however ultimately up to elected leaders decide what that action is.
Back in 2016 world governments made history by signing the Paris Climate Accord. It represented the commitment by the world’s nations to take action on combatting climate change (see French President Addresses US Congress).
This meant agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also mandated increasing the development of renewable energy, while simultaneously encouraging greater energy efficiency. There were other initiatives, but these were the big ones.
The Paris Accord certainly was great news in a number of ways. People from all over the world, working together towards a common goal. It’s heartwarming stuff. There was however, a significant error in assumption.
The agreement was built around the premise that countries needed to work to prevent a 2°C change in global temperatures. It turns out that the 2°C mark was overly optimistic. This latest IPPC report confirms that the true threshold to avoid is actually 1.5°C. That means we need even bolder action!
The world is warming quicker than anticipated. If we remain on the current course, the planet is expected to heat up more than the 2°C (probably 3!) by 2040. That’s frightening! Moreso when you learn the details. Indeed, that’s where the IPCC report comes in. It provides detailed explanations of the impact from global temperature increases. Scientists describe what each increased degree could represent. They also clarified the considerable difference between a 1.5 and 2 change in the planet’s temperature.
Curbing a 0.5 degree change might not sound like much, but it is. We’re talking about the difference between a world of increased mass floods, super-storms, draughts, and ocean coral decimation, versus potentially averting some of the worst climate-related disasters. According to the IPPC report, there is still time to avoid such a bleak future, but governments need to act urgently.
Ready for Change
In that regard, the IPCC report was surprisingly positive! Despite the catastrophic predictions, the climate scientists are also telling us that we can still prevent the worst of it. As described by IPCC Chair Dr. Hoesung Lee, “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” (October 10, 2018).
While this might sound pretty intense to some, the reality is that rapid and far-reaching changes are going to happen either way. The difference is on which side of the fence we would rather be on. Do we want to wait for the dramatic changes to be made for us, or can we act in time? Combatting climate change is certainly a daunting task, but if we wait too long it will be even more devastating and costly. The IPCC report urges world government to respond to the crisis. The time to act is now.
This is a very good, thought provoking post. I wonder how many warnings we’ll need before we finally take action. To me it seems that climate change has gone down in people’s perception. We are all much more willing to engage with something like the plastic problem than the damage we are doing through C emissions.