Climate Change, International, Natural Resources

The Clock Is Ticking Before Mother Nature Stops Forgiving

By: Mary Diaz

Earlier this month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) released a 700-page time sensitive report detailing the urgent need to limit climate change before risking extreme heat, droughts, floods, and rises in poverty levels.  The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change.  It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (“UNEP”) and the World Meteorological Organization (“WMO”) in 1988 to provide the world with a scientific view on the current state of information related to climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.  The IPCC reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide. Membership is open to all member countries of the United Nations and WMO. Currently, 195 countries are Members of the IPCC. Thousands of scientists review the work in order to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information.

The United Nations tasked the IPCC with determining what it would take to achieve a 1.5°C maximum rise in global warming.  The team pooled more than 6,000 scientific publications, drew contributions from 133 authors, and had more than 1,000 scientists review the findings.  The report specifically states that twelve years remain to radically transform society in order to reach a goal of 1.5° C of warming while still maintaining the possibility of controlling the effects of global warming.  A temperature increase of 1.5°C is considered the moderate level of average warming.  If increased further, the risks of environmental disasters, such as rising sea levels, intensified storms, and habitat loss will significantly worsen.  Keeping global warming at a cap of 1.5°C could save coral reefs from complete devastation, may help with food scarcity in developing countries that would be affected by climate-related poverty, and would also ease pressure on the Arctic.  The IPCC has upgraded its risk warning from previous reports and has made it clear that climate change is already happening.  While the Paris Climate Agreement was groundbreaking in bringing nations together to set a global average temperature increase to 2°C ,  a 0.5°C difference is detrimental.

In terms of mitigation, the IPCC suggests reforestation, cutting carbon pollution by 45% by 2030 (essentially reducing our current coal consumption by one-third), shifting to electric transport systems, and adopting carbon capture technology in order to achieve this target.  These are demanding goals, that are only further exacerbated by President Trump who announced his intentions to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, despite being one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide.

By not following these recommendations we will no longer be able to avert dire climate change consequences.  The cost of doing nothing would be disastrous. It is a time of urgency and by investing now we can prevent future consequences.  We cannot keep ignoring reality when it stares us in the face, whether it benefits us or the future generations. We must take action before it is too late.