Polar ice is melting, very hot days are increasing, and more extreme weather is on the rise. Climate change is happening right now and scientists are warning that we only have 12 years to get our greenhouse gas emissions in check.
We have raised the global temperature by 1.0 degrees Celsius. The new landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that we need to work at reducing our emissions because 1.5C is the maximum global temperature raise we can afford.
Raising the global temperature by another o.5C will dramatically worsen floods and droughts, increase poverty and alter the ecosystems of our planet as we know it. Further, this half degree difference would ease the pressure on the Arctic and prevent corals from being completely eradicated.
This domino-like cascade could turn the Earth into a “hothouse” state where human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile. Scientists warn that this is a “now problem”, and it’s only going to get harder to fix.
“this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight”. – Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia.
Since the industrial revolution, we have burned coal and oil, ultimately starting to change the Earth’s climate. We have pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for the past 150 years increasing the levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million.
As gases accumulate in the atmosphere, more heat is absorbed, increasing the overall global temperature. Due to positive feedbacks, this global temperature rise is exponential; an acceleration – as the Earth warms, polar ice melts, shrinking the white reflective area and expanding the dark surface area that absorbs the sun’s rays.
When the Paris agreement was released, we were told that we needed to keep the global temperature rise between 1.5C – 2.0C. However, the IPCC was commissioned to write a report when the Paris climate talks were happening in 2016. The scientists and authors reviewed 6000 works referenced in the new report and are urging us to take action now.
“This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency.” – Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts.
Here are the facts: Insects and plants would be twice as likely to lose their habitat if we raised the temperature by 2C compared to 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at 2C, but more than 10% have a chance of survival at 1.5C. By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower at the 1.5C limit, compared to the 2C rise.
The information presented in the report will be delivered at the UN climate conference in Poland at the end of this year, but work needs to happen now. Norway is pushing for oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal – these are plans that put us all in danger.
Our lifestyle as a planetary community is currently putting us on a course for 3C of global warming. Our future, if we continue on the current path, is catastrophic. Disease, poverty, and extreme weather crises are only going to get worse.
The report states that if we want to avoid this dangerous future, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed. We can still create a sustainable future. Governments are going to have to make hard decisions and we need to support the right leadership, but there are individual roles each of us need to play as well.
Here is what you can do today:
- EAT LESS MEAT
- A recent study reported that being a vegan is the single best way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. It is far bigger than cutting down on flights or buying an electric car, as these only reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, but it uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Loss of natural habitat to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.
- INSULATE YOUR HOMES
- Insulating your homes, draft-proofing doors and windows would cause a massive drop in energy consumption and it can save you money.
- SWITCH TO RENEWABLE ENERGY
- Switch to solar panels or other forms of renewable energy.
- WALK, CYCLE, OR USE PUBLIC TRANSIT
- If you need to have a car, consider an electric one.
- REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
- Buy and consume less. Reuse everything you can and recycle when you can’t.
- Support political parties and ideals that put the environment at the centre of their economic and industrial policies.
Although the call to government officials and other decision makers is the main goal of this new report, we are all part of this planet, which means we all need to be part of the solution.
- The IPCC report
- The IPCC press release
- Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene
- the Guardian Article
- The Paris Agreement
- Why being vegan reduces your environmental impact