On Monday 8th of October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report warning politicians about the impact that any future rise in temperature would have on our planet. Stated plainly, this impact will be enormous and tragic; far worse than previously projected. Whilst European governments are putting some policies in place to mitigate climate change, other countries like the United States, Australia, and Brazil are still either not making any positive moves or are actively exacerbating the conditions which cause climate change. It seems that there is no possibility of an agreement on strategy among the world’s governments, and without this there is no possibility of stopping the inevitable from happening.
According to the report, the world is currently 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and is getting warmer. Scientists have warned the UN that, at current levels of emissions, we are drifting towards a 3°C increase. Alarming as these numbers are, it is still a common misconception that visible changes will shift public opinion, and that this will in turn lead to changes in public behaviour. It is believed that the recent hurricanes in the United States, the droughts in South Africa, and the forest fires in the Arctic would show people that climate change is already happening.
With a 2°C temperature rise, 99% of the coral reef would be destroyed
Citing 6,000 individual pieces of research in the report, scientists highlight the differences between a rise to 1.5°C and one to 2°C. With a 2°C temperature rise, 99% of the coral reef would be destroyed, extreme heat days would increase, leading to a higher number of heat-related deaths, and sea-rise level could rise an extra 10cm thus affecting 10 million more people by 2100. However, with a 1.5°C rise, 10% of the corals would have a chance to survive, the oceans would have a lower risk of acidity elevation, and they would have better levels of oxygen. These facts should be a catalyst for our governments to act towards achieving the 1.5°C goal.
The writers of the report emphasise the need for the world’s governments to agree upon a common goal in order to stay between a 1.5°C and 2°C rise, if we want to preserve the few natural resources we have left that have not already been damaged by climate change. Keeping to the 1.5°C goal would require carbon pollution to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and come down to zero by 2050. This is only thought to be achievable with complete global co-operation.
Keeping to the 1.5°C goal would require carbon pollution to be reduced by 45% by 2030
As Jim Skea, a British co-author of the report says, “The final tick box is political will”. Without politicians working towards better ways to achieve the lower temperature goal, the consequences laid out in the report will come about faster than we think. It is essential that politicians attempt to implement the four effective ways of reaching the 1.5°C goal that have been highlighted in the report. These focus on the need of combining land use and technological change, reforestation, a shift to electric transport systems, and a greater adoption of carbon capture technology. These essential changes would add to the progress that has already been made with the adoption of renewable energy and other attempts to reduce our carbon emissions.
This report from the IPCC is an urgent warning about the dramatic consequences that our impact on the world is making. Our carbon emissions are far higher than they should be, and it is leading to a temperature rise which is affecting the climate and the whole world’s ecosystem. Despite this alarming conclusion, countries like the United States and Brazil still ignore the reality. We also need to be aware that many commentators on the report have found it very conservative in its warnings and feel that more should have been said about how climate change could lead to climate-driven refugees, climate-related poverty. Waiting for the tipping point is not acceptable if we want to avoid seeing extreme and irreversible consequences.
This report is a call for immediate action and the world’s governments must act now.