Wildfires and Floods and Droughts, Oh My!
By: Izzy Ster
In a stark report issued by Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it revealed that the planet will heat up to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels before 2030. Such heat can potentially provoke the risk of wildfires, floods, extreme droughts, and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.
To accomplish holding global warming to moderate levels, nations will need to take unprecedented actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade. However, with global emissions showing little to no signs of slowing, according to an infographic from the International Energy Agency, the goals of the previously implemented 2015 Paris agreement are very unrealistic. The 2015 Paris agreement. The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes, dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance in 2020. Under the agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regulatory report on their contribution to mitigating global warming. It was announced in June 2017 that President Trump intended to withdraw the United States from the agreement. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote, “there is no documented historic precedent” for the vast amount of change required in energy, transportation, and other systems to prevent temperatures rising higher.
If warming is kept at or just below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impacts will be globally significant. Temperatures during summer heat waves can be expected to increase by three degrees. There will be more frequent droughts, such as the one in Cape Town, South Africa, along with extreme rainfall events, similar to Hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States. 70% to 90% of coral reefs would be expected to disappear, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Due to the early receival of this report, there is some affirmation that it is possible to avoid these dire consequences. For example, if all emissions stopped today, the planet would not reach that temperature. The document continues to say the world’s annual carbon dioxide emission (40 billion tons per year) would have to be on a steep decline. Overall reductions in emissions would need to amount to more than one billion tons per year and by 2050, the report calls for total phaseout of the burning of coal. According to the report, the two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere include increasing natural processes that already accomplish this and implementing experimental carbon storage or removal technologies. It will also require considerable global political engagement. However, as mentioned previously, the Trump Administration’s stance on this issue is not correlated to taking immediate action. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore shared, “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has become a rogue outlier in its shortsighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. The administration is in direct conflict with American businesses, states, cities, and citizens leading the transformation." Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC panel and professor at Imperial College said, “Frankly, we’ve delivered the message to the governments. It’s not their responsibility...to decide whether than can act on it. What we’ve done is said what the world needs to do.”
The significant takeaway of the report is that the world is woefully off target for combating detrimental climate change, and immediate action needs to be taken, now.
Infographic mention in article.