Catastrophic events from climate change are not a "by 2100" thing that only Generation Z's future grandkids will have to deal with, it's so bad now that it's a "by 2040" thing that my generation will have to deal with.
The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.
With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.
“There is no documented historic precedent” for the sweeping change to energy, transportation and other systems required to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in a report requested as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
At the same time, however, the report is being received with hope in some quarters because it affirms that 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible — if emissions stopped today, for instance, the planet would not reach that temperature. It is also likely to galvanize even stronger climate action by focusing on 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than 2 degrees, as a target that the world cannot afford to miss.
“Frankly, we’ve delivered a message to the governments,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the IPCC panel and professor at Imperial College London, at a press event following the document’s release. “It’s now their responsibility … to decide whether they can act on it.” He added, “What we’ve done is said what the world needs to do.”
The transformation described in the document is breathtaking, and the speed of change required raises inevitable questions about its feasibility.
I expect the Trump regime will dismiss the report as "fundamentally flawed" before the end of the day, after all they fully admit that temperatures are going to rise a whopping 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, causing mass catastrophe, and there's no way to stop it, so why bother?
The IPCC report tells us that we're going to see some of those effects within 20 years, not 80.
Specifically, the document finds that instabilities in Antarctica and Greenland, which could usher in sea-level rise measured in feet rather than inches, “could be triggered around 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming.” Moreover, the total loss of tropical coral reefs is at stake because 70 to 90 are expected to vanish at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report finds. At 2 degrees, that number grows to more than 99 percent.
The report found that holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could save an Alaska-size area of the Arctic from permafrost thaw, muting a feedback loop that could lead to still more global emissions. The occurrence of entirely ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean goes from one per century to one per decade between 1.5 and 2 degrees, it found — one of many ways in which the mere half a degree has large real-world consequences.
Risks of extreme heat and weather events just rise and rise as temperatures do, meaning these would be worse worldwide the more it warms.
To avoid that, in barely more than 10 years, the world’s percentage of electricity from renewables such as solar and wind power would have to jump from the current 24 percent to something more like 50 or 60 percent. Coal and gas plants that remain in operation would need to be equipped with technologies, collectively called carbon capture and storage (CCS), that prevent them from emitting carbon dioxide into the air and instead funnel it to be buried underground. By 2050, most coal plants would shut down.
Cars and other forms of transportation, meanwhile, would need to be shifting strongly toward being electrified, powered by these same renewable energy sources. At present, transportation is far behind the power sector in the shift to low-carbon fuel sources. Right now, according to the International Energy Agency, only 4 percent of road transportation is powered by renewable fuels, and the agency has projected only a 1 percent increase by 2022.
Meanwhile the Trump regime is currently in the process of scrapping all of these Obama-era programs, and is actually looking to greatly increase coal plant usage and emissions. Odds are we're going to reach the 1.5C mark before 2040.
By then, it will be far too late. We'll go down as global villains in the history books for centuries.
And we will deserve it.