It might be cold right now, but not for long, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report.
This report, titled “Global Warming of 1.5 ℃,” was released on Oct. 6. It predicts environmental crisis as early as 2040 and has consequently been purposefully overlooked by the federal government and citizens around the world.
Humans have developed a fatal habit of ignoring an impending problem until it is irreversible: the Wall Street stock market crash, the dangers of leaded gas, asbestos and tobacco, or the election of Donald Trump as president.
Most popular, though, is their habit of ignoring approaching natural disasters. Disasters can and have been predicted: the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, etc.
Especially now, the IPCC’s report cannot be ignored.
The report essentially states that, if rapid and “unprecedented” changes are not made to reduce global warming to 1.5 ℃ rather than 2 ℃, humans’ negative effects on the environment will be irreversible by 2040.
Although, with this reduction made: “global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 °C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.
Frequency and severity of natural disasters can be increased due to rising global temperature.
Take the recent California wildfires for example. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a wildfire’s depending factors (temperature, soil moisture, presence of trees, etc.) are all directly or indirectly linked to climate change.
The wildfires’ sizes are increasing, too. “In 2015, wildfires burned more than 10 million acres across the United States, half of that in Alaska alone. It was the highest annual total acreage burned since record-keeping began in 1960.”
These wildfires not only destroy people’s lives and homes, but they also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further contributing to global temperature rise. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the carbon dioxide emitted from California’s electricity use in 2016 is roughly 76 million tons. The 2018 California wildfires have released a comparable 68 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
Wildfires are just one example of an issue that increases in severity with the furthering of climate change. Affected even further is the ocean and its ecosystems.
The report states, “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2ºC is projected to reduce increases in ocean temperature as well as associated increases in ocean acidity and decreases in ocean oxygen levels (high confidence).
“Consequently, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is projected to reduce risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystems, and their functions and services to humans, as illustrated by recent changes to Arctic sea ice and warm-water coral reef ecosystems (high confidence).”
With climate change comes melting of ice caps and, as a result, increase in sea level rise. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is projected to decrease sea level rise by 0.1 meter, which will potentially protect 10 million more people from the risks related to sea level rise.
Coral reefs are also affected by rising global temperature. According to the National Ocean Service, “Climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems.”
The report states, “Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 °C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2 °C.”
Practically all aspects of our environment are affected by climate change, which predict our future as a global population.
From our government officials’ stances and Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, it can be assumed that the United States will not be taking immediate action in response to the report.
In 2015, Trump said, “I believe in clean air. Immaculate air. But I don’t believe in climate change.”
In addition, in an email to The Daily Beast, a United States Environmental Protection Agency representative said of the October report, “Governments do not formally endorse specific findings presented by the authors. The United States [sic] continues to lead the world in GHG reductions having reduced our emissions by 14 percent since 2005.”
Even the leading percentage of emission reduction is not enough to save the environment’s resilience by 2040. Where the United States does not step up, though, another leading country needs to.
Many administrations around the world seem to be waiting on one another to take action, simply because they do not know where to start. Therein lies the mistake, though; we cannot wait. International governments should be, at minimum, discussing possible solutions and improvements. Citizens need to speak up about the issue as well; they have an unstoppable voice when joined together.
The report provides options that will help countries around the world work towards limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. It is now a matter of their willingness to use such advice.
With carbon dioxide emissions being a major cause of global warming, carbon dioxide removal measures are provided such as afforestation, BECCS, direct air carbon capture and storage, etc.
Carbon dioxide emissions directly from industry need to be limited, also. The report states, “Such reductions can be achieved through combinations of new and existing technologies and practices, including electrification, hydrogen, sustainable bio-based feedstocks, product substitution, and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).”
Other ways to gradually limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees are included.
The IPCC acknowledges the potential limiting factors to these environmental efforts, and the fact that many of these sustainable methods have not been proven to be effective on a global scale.
What’s important, though, is that these efforts could potentially save the environment by 2040. This report has given humankind the opportunity and the options to reverse the downward spiral our environment is in– it is just a matter of what we choose to do as an international population.
The people and the governments of countries with the most resources and influence need to consider the options provided in the report, and act before it is too late.
This be will Josie Krueger’s second year on Echo staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She has been recognized by MIPA and JournalismSTL for her work on the Echo.