Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third installment of its benchmark scientific study on climate change. There were no surprises in the report—the future looks bleak unless we take ambitious and immediate action towards reducing our global carbon emissions and changing our current energy portfolio.
The study deployed cutting edge modeling technology to research over 1,000 potential emissions pathways, and found that, without decisive action, our current emissions trajectory will likely lead to a 4°C (or more) temperature increase, causing increasingly dangerous super storms, wildfires, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme temperatures. In this hotter world, accessible fresh water declines by 20% for a portion of the population, forests around the world—which are essential to carbon sequestration—are disseminated, and coral reefs die en masse.
The sobering report confirms that this is the decade of climate action, and in order to stay under the 2°C temperature increase (deemed as the safe zone that will ensure that life will continue as we know it), our exploits must be aggressive, incisive, and coordinated. Poor choices made today about emissions-intensive energy sources, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings will lock us into a dystopic fate.
The longer we delay taking action, the more complicated and expensive it will become to stay within our 2°C safe zone. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
The IPCC reports that a 39% decrease in current levels of global emissions is needed by 2030, increasing to 72% by 2050. To accomplish these goals, the IPCC urges for substantial transformation, calling for the decarbonization of electricity generation by 2050; the phase out of coal generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology; the increase of low-carbon energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, and CCS) by five-fold over the next four decades; a massive shift in consumption patterns, such as reducing food waste and altering diets; and decreasing the industrial sector’s energy intensity by 25%.
Poorer countries and communities are predicted to be hardest hit by environmental changes due to the inability to appropriately prepare, mitigate risk, or rebuild after disaster. Nonetheless, climate change doesn’t have a preference when it comes to gender, race, nationality, occupation, personal preferences, income bracket, or sexual orientation. It is a problem of the global commons, and it will affect every living being across the globe. It is therefore necessary for each and every one of us to participate in the solution.