IPCC global temperature report: A problem with a deadline.
If you had any doubt of global warming before it’s time for you to grow up now. We are facing the most distressing reality of global warming and attempts to solve it should be taken seriously; we are beyond reasonable doubt in regard to its existence. That’s the core message of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations group charged with monitoring global warming since 1988, released Sunday 7 October in Incheon, South Korea. Stressing the importance of drastic reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions in order to prevent whole islands from being submerged under sea, coral life eradicated and rapidly rising temperatures making forest fires during summers frequent and winters warmer. The following day UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, appeared in New York and stated, “This report by the world’s leading climate scientists is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world. It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are — and we are running out of time.”
The IPCC released its report analysing thousands of global warming and climate change reports with the contribution of hundreds of scientists, academics, and researchers on the importance to maintain the global temperature at a maximum of 1.5°C which is vital in order to reduce the risks of catastrophic effects to humans and ecosystems alike. A half-degree decrease, in comparison to the Paris agreement of 2016 which saw 55 countries make personal pledges to tackle the causes of global warming, ultimately, agreeing to prevent the global temperature from reaching 2°C.
Currently, we have already passed the point of no return to keep the global temperature below 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and a half-degree increase in temperature will put 10 million people at risk due to increasingly rising sea levels and destroy 70–90% of coral reef life. At 1.5°C, 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates would lose over half of their natural geographic range; at 2°C, the numbers increase to 18%, 16% and 8%. At 1.5°C, we would have ice-free arctic summers once every century, but at 2°C, it will increase once every decade. At 2°C islands and coasts will be submerged decreasing land size for countries like Bangladesh and could, virtually, destroy all coral reefs.
The report, repeatedly, stresses the importance of tackling carbon dioxide, acknowledging the goal of maintaining a 1.5°C cap on global temperature scenario would require cutting carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 45% by 2030 and zero by 2050 — compared to 20% cut by 2030 and achieving zero by 2075 following the 2°C pathway. And expecting countries to implement dramatic economic changes in a short time period would be difficult, but the report provides several methods of combatting CO2 emissions.
Emphasising the necessity for countries to adopt environmental regulations and introduce policies like ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’, or SSPs, and switching to renewable energy, such as hydroelectricity and push for the purchasing and usage of electric cars. In fact, the EU had already agreed on a compromise deal to cut car emissions by 35% by 2030 prior to the release of the report. However, this was met with criticism from the automobile industry, Volkswagen’s chief executive Herbert Diess warned these environmental regulations would have severe consequences, alluding to the potential effects it would have on employment.
Ultimately, it is down to governments to adhere to the warnings they have not fully committed to processing by ensuring they adopt some political integrity and tackle destructive power dynamics, such as punishing or aligning the 100 companies who are responsible for 71% of the entire world’s carbon emissions with the most effective environmental regulations and tackling social inequality.
In the report, the IPCC has set out an approach developed by climate experts called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’. There are five SSPs, which outline the possible scenarios of the planet in accordance with the amount of action that needs to be taken and has taken place. SSP 1, called “Sustainability,” emphasises the importance of implementing policies that favour sustainability and investments in education and health care (which will accelerate the reduction of population growth). In contrast, SSP 3, “Region rivalry”, predicts between 750 million and 1.2 billion people would be affected by extreme weather due to high energy use, a decline in education and health care investments, and a resurgent of nationalism pushes countries to focus, solely, on domestic or regional issues.
The IPCC, however, refrains from promoting decarbonisation in the form of carbon taxing because it disproportionately affects the poor; in addition, is critical of encouraging prevention proposals, such as geo-engineering — for example, solar radiation management which is a theoretical approach that aims to reflect sunlight back into space before it affects the climate or carbon sequestration — the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide from power plants for future reuse. Due to the extreme financial commitments required admitting, “These options are technically proven at various scales, but their large-scale deployment may be limited by economic, financial, human capacity and institutional constraints.” It is estimated that investing 2.5% of the world economy into carbon emission capturing, storing, and reusing will cost $2.4 trillion every year until 2035.
Unfortunately, analysts have raised concerns that even countries from the Paris agreement may be reluctant in taking onboard the instructions of the report as their nations are reliant on fossil fuel extraction which means this will contradict their environmental commitments. Germany is planning on tearing down Hambach forest for coal, Britain has allowed energy companies to explore gas fracking, and Norway is expanding its oil exploration to the Arctic.
Even if developed nations were to execute the advice provided in the report and overcome this obstacle, the issue of developing nations arises as they do not have the financial or political stability to, effectively, follow suit. These countries rely heavily on fossil fuels in order to run their countries and combined with population increase the demand will, naturally, increase.