Ecocentricity Blog: This Report Is Special

Oct 10, 2018 1:30 PM ET
Summary: 

We still have a chance of reaching the aspirational goal, but we need to move quickly. I urge you not to lose hope. Losing hope is futile, especially when what we need now is action.

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Ready for the hardest trivia question of all time? I’m pretty sure Google is your only hope.

What do Kiane de Kleijne of the Netherlands, Katja Mintenbeck of Germany, Priyadarshi R. Shukla of India, Mikiko Kainuma of Japan, Keywan Riahi of Austria, Panmao Zhai of China, and Michael Taylor of Jamaica have in common?

I’ll save you from Googling. They are all drafting authors of the latest special report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 6. If you knew the answer to that question, you were also probably a drafting author of the special report. In that case, cool! Thanks for reading my blog!
 
It’s worth reading through the Summary for Policy Makers issued by the IPCC. You can also find a lot of coverage of the report in various places, but there is nothing like going directly to the source. It isn’t short, but then again it shouldn’t be. This is a complicated topic, and their report is the end-result of 30 months of work.
 
The report is focused on the impacts in our world that will stem from global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In case you do not recall, the 1.5°C threshold was adopted as the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement late in 2015. Essentially, the IPCC wanted to know what bad things would happen even with 1.5°C warming, so that we can all understand in greater detail how desperately we need to curb our planet’s warming.
 
Here are a few highlights (but again, please go read it yourself!):
 
  • Humanity is likely to have caused about 1.0°C of warming already, and the IPCC projects Earth to likely reach 1.5°C of warming between 2030 and 2052 if it warming continues at its current rate.
  • Things will get steadily worse (my language). They observe that risks for natural and human systems are higher than present day if we hit 1.5°C, but that risks at 1.5°C are also lower than those at 2.0°C. That may seem obvious, but good science requires evidentiary support for even the obvious things. This is good science.
  • Global warming’s impacts are already being felt. From page 8, “Many land and ocean ecosystems and some of the services they provide have already changed due to global warming.”
  • An increase of 1.5°C of global mean surface temperature does not mean that we will feel 1.5°C warmer at all times. Remember, that is an average, and extreme temperatures will be magnified further. For instance, from pages 8-9, “[E]xtreme hot days in mid-latitudes warm by up to about 3°C at global warming of 1.5°C….”
  • We are currently emitting about 42 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. There is a lot of variability in our remaining carbon budget depending on models used (and they have a lot of uncertainty), but we seem to have between 420 and 570 gigatons left to have a 66% chance of keeping warming to 1.5°C.
  • I’ll stop there and emphasize the last point. We still have a chance of reaching the aspirational goal, but we need to move quickly. I urge you not to lose hope.
 
Losing hope is futile, especially when what we need now is action. All that you can do is what you can do, so do it. Make some climate friendly decisions today. It really will take all of us!
Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858