UN Climate Report: You Know, Guys, We *CAN* Still Fix This!!
United Nations photo

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major new report Monday on what needs to be done to prevent the Earth's average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- or, if you prefer your numbers less communist, 2.7 degrees David Fahrenthold -- since the start of the industrial age. The report also compares the difference between halting that increase at 1.5 degrees C, and letting average temperatures increase two degrees C, because the Paris climate goal was to limit the change to 2 C but try for 1.5. Turns out half a degree Celsius is the difference between bad things happening and extremely bad things happening to cities, agriculture, endangered species, and yes, entire nations. But there's a bit of good news: It's not inevitable, and it's not too late. Humans were smart enough to build the industrial and political systems that brought this mess, and we're also smart enough to do something about it!

Of course, one major challenge in doing something about it is electing leaders who are willing to even recognize that it's real. That means voting for people who know our survival as a species is at stake -- not just quarterly profits for the oil industry. Just a little something to remind you to get millennials out to vote. It's going to be their world, after all.

It will, of course, take more than installing curly lightbulbs or getting a more fuel-efficient car, although those are still better than doing nothing. Like, a lot more, and we have about 12 years to get our planetary shit together.

Temperatures are currently about 1° C higher than preindustrial levels. At the current rate of warming, the world as a whole will reach the 1.5° mark between 2030 and 2052, the report concludes. (Many regions have already experienced this condition on a short-term basis.)

To curb the trend, governments will have to spearhead "rapid and unprecedented societal transformation," including major reductions in their carbon emissions. The world currently pumps more than 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year; the IPCC calls for that number to be cut by more than 1 billion tons per year over the next decade. By 2050, the report says, the burning of coal for fuel should be all but abandoned.

Oh, yes, and more than that: We also have to get serious about phasing out fossil fuels worldwide, which won't be easy, but doesn't mean living in caves. It means vastly expanding funding of research and development of alternative fuels. It means doing all the stuff we should have been doing for decades, but haven't, because however much politicians may talk about generations yet to come, the little bastards haven't yet managed to find a way to send campaign donations back in time. It's a good time to talk about how much money there is to be made in green energy. Or maybe seizing the means of production -- that has a certain ring to it.

The point here is that climate scientists don't believe the tipping point is here just yet, but we're running out of time to turn this supertanker around:

The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

"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," said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. "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 differences between 1.5 degrees of total change and two degrees is huge. Here, have a graphic. Come the revolution, we'll require that it be laminated on gas pumps.

Source: CarbonBrief.org

The Paris Climate agreement's goal is, as we said, limiting world temperature increase to between 1.5 and two degrees -- and, oops, if current trends continue, we'll blow straight past that and on to three degrees of warming, which is your basic end of civilization stuff. But the report's authors are convinced that now that the effects of climate change are becoming visible -- more severe storms and wildfire seasons, fucked up growing seasons, and the like -- political will to limit greenhouse gases will also grow.

And of course there are the things individuals can do, regardless of what our governments do. Eat less meat, because producing meat causes deforestation and wastes water.

Eating less meat is one of a number of mitigation strategies suggested by the IPCC to overhaul agricultural and land-use practices, including the protection of forests. The livestock sector is estimated to account for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, more than direct emissions from the transport sector.

Walk or bike or take public transit when you can. Get an electric or hybrid car. Improve your home's energy efficiency. If you can afford a home solar system, do that. You know most of this stuff already. But the biggest thing is to vote. Vote for national leaders who know science is real. And vote for state and local leaders who'll commit to clean energy goals. California is a hell of a nice role model there.

Yes of course the corporate greedheads are fighting to maintain their power. But science is real, and international action can still take place to reduce the damage. Remember, the nations of the world took on the Ozone Hole and nailed that sucker closed. We mostly stopped acid rain in the Northeast. Hell, if nothing else, maybe we can point out to Trump that China's kicking our ass in clean energy.

And it is your Open Thread!

[UN climate report / UN news release / Vox / Guardian / CNN / The Scientist]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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