A new report on climate change issued by the United Nations is out and, if it’s to be believed, that post-apocalyptic future suggested in such films as Mad Max: Fury Road and Snowpiercer may be here much sooner than we think.
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change, revealed that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” according to a statement announcing the climate change report.
“The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group that addresses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, in the statement.
The report highlights several climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 2 degrees Celsius or more. For example, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 centimeters lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with 2 degrees Celsius. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees Celsius. Coral reefs would decline by 70 percent to 90 percent with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2 degrees Celsius. (Yeah, we don’t have any jokes for that. That’s terrifying.)
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree Celsius of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC’s working group that assesses the physical science basis of climate change.
There is some good news. Some of the actions that would be required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius are already underway around the world. The not-so-great news? They need to accelerate.
The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.
“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC working group dealing with the mitigation of climate change. “But doing so would require unprecedented changes.”
So it really looks as though we need to follow Neil deGrasse Tyson’s advice on being better shepherds of this earth.
You can read the full report here, if you’ve got the stomach for it.