Can we address climate change?
The warning couldn’t be any more clear and direct: Without near-immediate action, the world will fail to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a new and highly anticipated report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the chances of the human race actually coming together to address the problem are not very good, the report says.
The result: A radically different environment, with rising seas, species disappearing, food chains in chaos and human migration and competition for resources leading to political instability. The poorest nations and the lowest-lying countries will suffer the most, but there will be plenty of impact to go around from bigger swings in extreme weather (more and stronger hurricanes), more extreme drought and more extreme flooding, depending on where people live.
The temperature rise can be combatted, if political and industry leaders show the will. The IPCC says the rise can be capped at 1.5 C (less than 3 degrees in Fahrenheit) if global carbon pollution is cut 45 percent before 2030 (in 12 years), and reaches zero emissions by 2050. As the Guardian reports, “This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2 C target (set in the 2015 Paris agreement). But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.”
Global governments have the information. What they do with it will determine how much more damage we do to the planet, and to ourselves.
“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation, said. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can — and that is the governments that receive it.”
The big question for Americans is whether anyone in the Trump administration will even bother read the report. As the Times noted late last month based on early news coverage of the report’s contents:
“Even the Trump administration, which wants to burn fossil fuels with an arsonist’s glee, has acknowledged the impacts of climate change in official reports, though it defies and occasionally denies the science of climate change in formal policies and statements. Remember, President Trump wants to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, which would make us the only — only — country in the world to not be a part of it. Yet a pending draft report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defending Trump’s desire to freeze fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks predicts that global temperatures will rise by 4 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Incongruously, the report argues that since the world is baking anyway, higher emissions from cars and light trucks won’t make much difference. And the Pentagon recognizes that rising seas threaten military bases, particularly naval installations, around the globe. But the administration seeks to make the problems worse rather than take steps to combat them.
“Humanity is spinning pell-mell toward self-inflicted disaster, and the largest economy in the world — the country with the second highest industrial output — has official policies to ignore it. Indeed, the U.S. plans to add to the problem for the sake of short-term energy sector financial gains. Whether Trump’s policies are bred of ignorance or cynicism, they push the nation — and the planet — into ever-more dangerous territory.”
— The Los Angeles Times