The “BIG” Impending Climatic Catastrophe
It’s all over the print, in news and raging on social media platforms as well . We hear the calls of young and the old alike demanding action on today’s climate emergency— “135 Weeks to an irreversible & irrevocable Climate Catastrophe” — what does it really mean to us as individuals?
By the period 2030-2040, the world could see massive food shortages, endless wildfires, and coastal flooding that has a disproportionately horrific effect on vulnerable populations. If global leaders do nothing to change the emissions currently being pumped into the atmosphere, that future is a lock, says a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
There’s nothing mysterious about what it will take to limit climate change: The world needs to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. But the timing of that transition is extremely important.
According to a new study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, we could soon cross a point of no return. After that, it’ll be almost impossible to keep Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius.
The goal of the Paris agreement was to cut emissions enough to keep the planet from crossing that limit, since scientists have determined that more than 2 degrees of warming could have catastrophic effects.
The new study calculates that if the world’s governments don’t initiate a transition to clean energy sources by 2035 — meaning that the share of renewables starts to grow by at least 2% each year — we’ll almost certainly pass that point of no return.
The exact year could change, according to the researchers’ model, if new technology can remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, or if we see quicker growth in renewables. But no matter what, the deadline is coming soon.
Not hitting those targets makes the worst effects of climate change far more likely. These include rising seas that could swamp coastal cities, searing heat waves that would cause tens of thousands of deaths, drought, wildfires, and extreme storms.
A warming world
By burning fossil fuels, we release carbon dioxide and other gases. Doing so has already altered Earth’s atmosphere in a way that has led it to trap more heat from the sun. And global temperatures have crept up — they’ve already risen more than 1 degree C higher than in pre-industrial times.
The more greenhouse gases we pump into atmosphere, the more heat we trap. That part of the equation is certain.
Scientists have calculated how much warming will result from the release of different amounts of carbon dioxide. The new study took those numbers and combined them with projections of future emissions that will continue to rise as nations develop and consume more energy.
If global energy use were to rise faster, the switch to renewables would have to happen sooner.
On the other hand, if the share of renewables were to grow by 5% a year instead of 2%, that could push the date back 10 years. The development of negative emissions technology that could suck greenhouse gases out of the air could also push back that no-return date. But even that would only give us six to 10 extra years — and the switch to renewables still would be required.
Regardless of these caveats, the study suggests that the clock is ticking, and it’s going to get harder to meet our goals the longer we delay.
In the study, the authors explain that it gets harder to predict climate consequences and the world’s response to them as the Earth’s temperature gets higher. That’s because research suggests that certain natural systems on the planet could be activated by warming and consequently trigger further warming. A recent paper that explained this concept: if those systems are triggered at 2 degrees, it said, that might cause temperatures to spike even higher regardless of how we control emissions. This scenario can be dubbed as “hothouse Earth.”
In that situation, Earth’s average temperature could rise 4 or 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, leading to sea levels up to 200 feet higher than they are now.
But it’s not too late to avoid that fate. At least, in theory. The report, authored by 91 scientists from 40 countries, focuses on the effects of a 1.5 degree Celsius, or 2.7 degree Fahrenheit, increase in temperatures. But even limiting global temperature increases to that level, which would mitigate the chain reaction of global catastrophes that would come with a more dramatic increase, requires “rapid and far-reaching” changes for which there is “no documented historic precedent.”
Among the changes suggested in the report are a more than 1 billion ton reduction in emissions for each year in the next decade. That would be roughly equivalent to eliminating all emissions from Japan in each of the next 10 years. By 2050, coal must be all but eliminated as an energy source and renewable sources should make up a third of the electricity market, the report says.
These proposals would obviously encounter strident opposition from the energy industry. But one way to encourage reaching these highly ambitious goals is a fantastically high carbon tax.
The report emphasizes the potential role of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. “A price on carbon is central to prompt mitigation,” the report concludes. It estimates that to be effective, such a price would have to range from $135 to $5,500 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030, and from $690 to $27,000 per ton by 2100.
By comparison, under the Obama administration, government economists estimated that an appropriate price on carbon would be in the range of $50 per ton. Under the Trump administration, that figure was lowered to about $7 per ton.
The world countries, UN & other significant climate research and environmental organizations don’t just want to see massive reductions in greenhouse gases, they want to see emissions extracted from the environment with large-scale “negative emissions” systems, which haven’t even been developed yet.
But creating the systems needed to clean dirty air on a global scale might be easier than convincing the major ‘stubborn’ emitters to join the effort. Jim Skea, a co-chair of the IPCC, says this report is all the scientific community can do.
Why Even Half a Degree of Global Warming Is a Big Deal?
The Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 19th century.
Half a degree may not sound like much. But as the research details, even that much warming could expose tens of millions more people worldwide to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. Half a degree may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them.
Status of Arctic summer sea ice: 1.5°C
Meaning: Sea ice will remain during most summers
Status of Arctic summer sea ice: 2°C
Meaning: Ice-free summers are 10 times more likely
Extreme heat will be much more common worldwide under 2°C of warming compared to 1.5°C, with the tropics experiencing the biggest increase in the number of “highly unusual” hot days.
Global crop yields are expected to be lower under 2°C of warming compared to 1.5°C, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.
Each time the Earth heats up an extra half-degree, the effects aren’t uniform across the planet. Some regions, such as the Arctic, will heat up two to three times faster. The Mediterranean and Middle East regions could see a 9 percent drop in water availability at 1.5 degrees of warming and a 17 percent drop at 2 degrees. The odds of extreme weather events like severe heat waves or powerful rainstorms also don’t go up uniformly with an extra half-degree. The number of extremely hot days around the world tends to rise exponentially as the global average temperature increases.
The possibility that even modest amounts of warming may push both human societies and natural ecosystems past certain thresholds where sudden and calamitous changes can occur.
Take coral reefs, which provide food and coastal protection for half a billion people worldwide. Before the 1970s, it was virtually unheard-of for ocean temperatures to get so warm that swaths of corals would bleach and die off. But as global average temperatures have risen half a degree in that span, these bleaching events have become a regular phenomenon.
6 Simple ways to act on Climate Change-Start at Home:
- Reduce emissions Use your car less, whenever possible, instead use sustainable transportation, such as bicycling, or use public transportation more often. In the case of long-distance travel, trains are more sustainable than airplanes, which cause a great deal of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. If you’re into cars, remember that every kilometer that you increase your speed will considerably increase CO2 emissions and expenses. According to the CE, each liter of fuel that your car uses, equals 2.5 kilos of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
Change the way you get around & travel. Instead of driving, walk or cycle to work-And enjoy the health benefits too. Dutch people live atleast upto 1/2 -2 years more than their other European counterparts, because of how much they cycle.
2. Save energy Take a look at the labels on your appliances, and never leave them on standby. Always adjust the thermostat for heating and air conditioning. By being careful how we use home appliances, we can save energy and, of course, money at the end of the month.
3. Put the 3 R’s of sustainability into practice — Reduce: consume less, more efficiently. — Reuse: take advantage of second-hand markets, to give new life to items that you don’t use anymore or find something that someone else has gotten rid of that you need. You’ll be saving money and reducing your consumption. Bartering is also a practical solution. — Recycle: packaging, waste from electronics, etc. Did you know that you can save over 730 kilos of CO2 each year just by recycling half of the garbage produced at home?
Coming to garments and commodities, shop less. Buy fewer items. Buy very less/Buy second-hand and reuse whatever you buy & already own. Donate the items you no longer use, instead of sending them to landfills.
120 million trees are cut down every year to make clothes, reducing the amount of CO2 absorbed.
4.What about your diet? Eat low-carbon A low-carbon diet results in smarter consumption: — Reduce your meat consumption (livestock is one of the biggest contaminators of the atmosphere) and increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Eat food that is local and in season: read the label and eat food that is produced in the area, avoid imports which create more emissions due to transportation. Also, eat seasonal items, to avoid less sustainable production methods. — Avoid excessive packaging and processed foods as much as possible. The lower the rate of food carbon footprint, the better we can handle this crisis — It could help taking 1out of every 4 cars off road.
5. Act against forest loss — As far as possible, avoid anything that may be a fire hazard. — If you want to buy wood, choose wood with a certification or seal showing its sustainable origin. — Plant a tree! Throughout its life, it can absorb up to a ton of CO2. Make the maximum surrounding area around you green-plant whatever flowers, seeds and fruits you can and use them straight out of produce. Planting 10% more trees could mitigate rising summer temperatures world over by 35–40%.
6. Make demands from the government Demand that they take measures toward a more sustainable life, any way that you can: promote renewable energy, regulatory measures such as properly labelling products (fishing method used, labels that specify product origins, whether or not they are transgenic, etc.), promote more sustainable public transportation, promote the use of bicycles and other non-polluting transportation methods in the city, correctly manage waste through recycling/reuse, etc….
The population has more power than it realizes to demand measures from governments to raise global awareness of the global warming problem.