Scientists have been warning us for decades now that climate change is a serious issue that humans can’t reverse without concerted global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And for decades, we’ve largely been ignoring them.
Well, now a new report from the United Nations says that if we don’t shape up and start paying attention soon, the earth will see irreversible catastrophic damage within 12 years. Yeah, they’re not mincing words. This is serious.
“The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities,” reads the statement distributed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”
So basically, we have to cut the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by half in the next 12 years or else suffer more frequent and deadly extreme weather events, crippling drought, unnatural heat waves, floods and wider-spread poverty and human displacement. A New Zealand contributor put it into haiku form, for easier reading.
With the outreach and analysis of @IPCC_CH #SR15 report underway, I could not resist trying to summarise the SPM in 19 #haiku, forever inspired by @climate_haiku. (Disclaimer: personal choices here, not representing the same balance as the full report…). “Introduction” (1/19) pic.twitter.com/FIFyc9HC4u
— Andy Reisinger (@ReisingerAndy) October 9, 2018
Ahead of the creation of the Paris Climate Agreement, scientists suggested that 1.5°C is the magic number when it comes to global temperature. If the overall temperature of the earth were to rise past that amount, environmental damage would become irreversible and result in the displacement of hundreds of millions of people globally. It’s often assumed to be hypothetical, but the climate researchers who proposed it take it very seriously.
“We’ve told you the scientific facts, the evidence, the costs,” Professor Jim Skea of the IPCC said. “It is up to the governments now to decide what to do.”
This report gives policymakers & practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context & people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history, Debra Robers, Co-Chair WGII#sr15 #ipcc pic.twitter.com/r0EsTigw5N
— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) October 8, 2018
That’s right; this is way past us making the decision to take public transit and bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store. The IPCC report says that it is only through global efforts mandated by governments that we will be able to decrease greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There’s a little good news though: they have hopes that it is possible.
“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” acknowledged IPCC’s Valerie Masson-Delmotte. Skea seconds both sentiments.
“Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” he said.
With 195 countries signed onto the Paris Agreement, you would think that accelerating changes would be a universally appealing task. Does anyone really want their entire country to be underwater within the next decade and a half? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The United States pulled out of the agreement last year and Donald Trump has been very clear that he is putting America — more specifically, American businesses — ahead of the rest of the planet. Other countries doubled down on their Paris commitments, but even within Canada, individual provinces like Ontario and Manitoba are rejecting carbon taxes (which experts say would have a huge impact in the battle to reduce atmospheric CO2 and finance a shift to green energy).
So keep taking the bus, and maybe also let your government know that you want to continue living on this planet for more than 12 years.
The @IPCC_CH announced today that we need to completely decarbonise our economy before 2030. Impossible? No! Such a clear goal has the power to push governments + industries to rally towards a common and well-defined action. We can do it in 12 years ! #climatechange pic.twitter.com/JgeUQpuCD2
— Bertrand PICCARD (@bertrandpiccard) October 8, 2018