UN climate report warns of catastrophe by 2040
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
As climate change goes, we have heard it all. Tales of rapidly melting sea ice form the backdrop of a world spinning out of control towards more catastrophes: water and food shortages, massive wildfires, flooding, and skyrocketing temperatures.
All of this will affect poor and frontline communities more, of course.
The plot of a new science fiction film? No. Just the latest from the freshly convened U.N. Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week in Incheon, South Korea.
Sure, there are many climate change reports, but this one is different. Why? It uses the U.N.’s resources to have 91 of the world’s top scientists representing 40 countries analyze updated climate change data from 6,000 scientific studies.
This international collaboration is encouraging: the results are not.
This report is the first of its kind since the Paris Agreement, which involved 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change almost three years ago.
Commissioned after the Paris Agreement, and chock full of “shocking” information, it spells out nothing more than rapid-fire transformation of the planet.
At the writing of this report, scientists have adjusted their temperature gauge for greenhouse gases’ most severe effects from 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit to 2.7 degrees.
The New York Times reports: "The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty."
This could mean a 1.5 degree increase by 2030 — only 12 years from now.
And oddly, the cost of this overall damage is estimated at $54 trillion. Reason enough to sit down at the table with the global community and work things out, right?
The U.S. uses the most resources and produces the most waste, but President Trump’s administration not only refuses to honor the Paris Agreement’s terms, it has also waged a systematic deregulation of environmental rules and policies that have been in place for decades. The U.S. has stated it will be fully out of the Paris Agreement by 2020.
Add to the complex geopolitical climate the fact that some critics of the IPCC report state it doesn’t go far enough. Specific concerns include that it ignores another critical factor: tipping points or acceleration factors. These factors are "known unknowns" or "feedback mechanisms within the climate system" that signal thresholds that pose grave threats if they are surpassed.
The founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Durwood Zaelke, states: "The IPCC report fails to focus on the weakest link in the climate chain: the self-reinforcing feedbacks which, if allowed to continue, will accelerate warming and risk cascading climate tipping points and runaway warming."
Water vapor, melting polar ice, permafrost collapse, and tropical clouds migrating toward the poles are all known unknowns — even “sleeping giants” — that can cause additional devastation to that acknowledged by the IPCC report.
While some greet the IPCC report as a significant enough warning, others indicate that it does not go far enough in determining threat levels from sleeping giants.
The report, released Oct. 8, is receiving significant media coverage. Now, the challenge is to get government leaders and policymakers to act on the report’s minimal findings.
This means that the "Earth’s inhabitants need to reduce our global net CO2 emissions by 45 percent compared with 2010 emission levels." We need to stop adding additional carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere and physically remove what’s already there.
How can this be done? Radical changes, such as cleaner energy, better public transportation, more efficient building, and manufacturing practices, are all necessary before we hit too many tipping points with not enough time or resources to make a difference.
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