Climate Change: Part 5. New IPCC report – scary or not?
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• The situation is worse than we thought.
• Between 70 and 90% of coral reefs expected to die off, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
• Individuals can do something about it.
• Being aware of what we eat, where it comes from, how we travel, how we heat our homes, can impact energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
• Drastic action is required but will require global political engagement.
NEW IPCC REPORT OUT IN OCTOBER 2018. I live in the southwest USA. Seeing more pine trees killed by pine-bark beetles is sad. The huge numbers of wildfires in the west got to me this past summer. Hearing about the terrible droughts now in Australia is dwpressing. And hurricane Michael which smashed the Florida coast two weeks ago made me cry.
This new IPCC report grabbed my attention because it says the situation is worse than we thought. It also says we as individuals can do something about it.
FIRST BULLET SUMMARY. The following bullets are taken from a report by Matt McGrath of BBC, 8 Oct 2018.
• There’s no doubt that this dense, science-heavy, 33-page summary is the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in the last 20 years.
• The report points out the differences between allowing global temperatures to rise towards 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times, or keeping them nearer to 1.5 degrees. Note: global temperature has already gone up close to 1 degree C.
• A half a degree doesn’t sound like much but whether its coral reefs, crops, floods or the survival of species, everyone and everything is far better off in a world that keeps it below 1.5C.
• By 2100, global mean sea level rise will be around 10 cm lower for warming of 1.5 degrees compared with 2C. This could mean up to 10 million fewer people exposed to the risks of rising seas.
• Similarly, when it comes to heat waves, in a world that’s warmed by up to 1.5C, about 14% of the population are exposed to a heat wave every five years. That increases to 37% of the population at 2C.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
• A key point of the IPCC report is that successfully limiting climate change to 1.5C is not just by cutting emissions or making lifestyle changes or planting trees – it is doing all of the above at the same time.
• The report says that carbon [GN: carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses] will also have to be sucked out of the air by machines and stored underground, and that these devices exist already.
• Billions of trees will have to be planted – and people may have to make hard choices between using land for food or using it to plant trees to suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
• Regarding the energy we buy, we need to be putting pressure on policymakers to make options available so that we can use renewable energy in our everyday life.
• Cutting energy demand by using less energy is a highly effective step. This makes it personal – e.g. keeping the thermostat lower in winter in our houses.
• Being aware of what you eat, where it comes from, and thinking about how you travel, can impact energy use. [GN: Livestock-based food production causes about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emission. And raising chicken, pork or eggs causes ten times less greenhouse gas emissions than what is required to produce beef. A plant-based diet, such as vegetarian, causes even less greenhouse gas emissions.]
SECOND BULLET SUMMARY. The following bullets are adapted from a CNN article by Brandon Miller and Jay Croft, 8 Oct 2018.
• Governments around the world must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.
• The planet will reach a crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.
• Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C. While technically possible, this would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities.
ITS HAPPENNING NOW.• The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by 190 signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal.
• We are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. Even if warming is kept at 1.5 degrees C, the impacts will be widespread and significant.
• More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that nearly ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfalls such as in hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are expected as we reach the warming threshold.
• Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90% expected to die off, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
OTHER WARNINGS RELATED TO THE IPCC REPORT.
• Science shows the world must wean itself of fossil fuels, but much of the global economy depends on it, making an overnight transition impossible.
• The world needs rapid deployment of renewable energy (solar and wind). Renewable energy will need to provide 70% of global electricity by 2050. Coal use in power stations will need to disappear.
• The Paris commitments of 2015 by 190 countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions won’t stop temperatures rising to 3 C by 2100. Worse — the USA has promised to bail out of their Paris commitment.
NEGATIVE EMISSIONS. One key issue will be negative emissions, which are large scale carbon-scrubbing technologies that can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere: increasing natural processes that already do this [like planting more trees], and experimental carbon storage or removal technologies [like injecting carbon dioxide into underground strata that have been depleted of oil].
OVERALL PERSPECTIVE. The two solutions for global warming are (1) reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted, and (2) reducing the amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that already exists. These will require considerable political engagement globally. Despite the dire warnings of the IPCC report, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration’s stance on this issue.
POST-SCRIPT. For those with an analytic mind, here is a graph that shows the BEST result – if we acted now on greenhouse gases and if we acted strongly. The x-axis is increasing time from left to right. In 2018, we’re at the vertical line. The dotted line trending down represents immediate, drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Even if this is done, the temperature (red line) still increases past 1.5 degrees C but later rolls over and maybe even drifts downward (red shaded area).
If the world doesn’t act now and act strongly… the red-line temperature will head up out of the graph to 2 degrees C, and our troubles will be much worse.
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