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Warnings from the World’s Climate Scientists
On Monday, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 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, as thousands of scientists from all over the world spent years analyzing the data and investigating the evidence (The BBC does a pretty good job of explaining the process).
The take-away is abundantly clear. Due to human activity and the over-use of fossil fuels, the world is in fact warming at an increasingly rapid rate. It’s actually changing faster than was initially anticipated, and we need to respond to the science while we still have time to do something about it.
The IPCC Breakdown
The IPCC focused on better understanding the earth’s temperatures changes and what it would mean for all life on the planet. 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 carbon emissions as well as developing renewable energy alternatives (amongst other initiatives).
The Paris Accord certainly was great news in some respects, however it was also built around the premise that countries should do what they could to prevent the world from reaching a 2°C change in global temperatures. Well it turns out the 2°C mark was overly optimistic, and the true threshold to avoid is actually 1.5°C.
The world is warming quicker than anticipated and if we remain on the current course, the planet is expected to heat up by 3°C (let alone 2!) in the next few decades (see A Strong Risk of Crisis as early as 2040). Scary stuff when you learn about what that means! That’s what the IPCC report was all about. Explaining the impact of such temperature increases, and clarifying the considerable difference that is made between a 1.5 and 2 change in the planet’s temperature.
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 (see also This Changes Everything). According to the report, there is still time to avoid such a bleak future, but governments need to act urgently.
Ready for Change
In this 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 has urged the world once again that the time to act is now.