Why climate change is now a climate emergency
In the context of an increasing number of ‘climate emergency declarations’ and the accelerating adoption of the ‘climate emergency’ language, is the threat we are facing of such a magnitude and the timing so urgent that we should disrupt and transform global markets, economies and our way of life? To answer this question we examine the evidence.
You can either explore the questions below, to find answers to specific issues, or scroll down to read them all in order.
What would it mean to treat climate change as an ‘emergency’?
To help understand whether climate change is now an emergency, it helps to first understand what it means to treat something as ‘an emergency’?
An emergency is a situation where the normal ways we manage society and the economy cannot adequately deal with the risk we face. It implies therefore a change to what we do, commensurate to both the scale and urgency of the risk.
Declaring an emergency should result in the development of a plan, underpinned by strong leadership that communicates, coordinates and deploys the practical capacity and financing to protect communities from the threat, including the most vulnerable. In most emergencies, only the state has the authority and capacity to act in this way. The community relies on the state to do so.
This is well understood from other emergency responses, where the practical process of managing an emergency is widely known. In these cases we have various mechanisms and legal frameworks in place with which to act. Including:
localised emergencies like bushfire, earthquake, flood and terrorist attacks;
regional emergencies like famine and war and
more global emergencies like WWII and the 2008 financial crises.
From these, we know the basic characteristics of an emergency response. As The Breakthrough Climate Centre describes it: “In emergency mode we stop ‘business-as-usual’ because nothing else matters as much as the crisis. We don’t rush thoughtlessly in, but focus on a plan of action, which we implement with thought, and all possible care and speed, to protect others and get to safety.”
The Breakthrough Climate Centre continues, using the comparison to WWII: “A ‘whatever it takes’ attitude means that government plans and directs the nation’s resources and capacity towards building up the war effort. This can be done at amazing speed.”
For example in WWII military outlays as a proportion of national economies grew from less than 2% pre-war to around 37% of GDP by 1945 in the USA (the GDP increased itself by 75% in that time, making the observed increase even more dramatic) and from 2.5% to 52% of GDP in the UK. These enormous economic shifts happened in less than a decade.
An emergency response only implements a ‘whatever it takes’ approach commensurate in scale and resources to the level of threat and urgency. The response to local flooding is naturally of a different scale to a war.
This then leads us to compare the level of risk posed by climate change with the current response to that risk. And to ask the question: ‘Should climate change now be considered as The Climate Emergency’? Does the evidence really support such an approach?
In doing so, we need to clearly differentiate that question from either the political/rhetorical process of ‘declaring’ an emergency or actually having a practical ‘emergency response’ in place. Both of those are also important, but first we need to consider whether the evidence confirms climate change is ‘an emergency’. Does the evidence really support such an approach?
This should be considered as a rational, analytical question, not one of advocacy, belief or ideology. It is a judgement, to be made ultimately by those in authority, on:
The scale, timing and level of threat or risk; and
The speed of response required to address it effectively.
Both of these criteria need to be considered, because an emergency response can, by definition and intent, be very disruptive to the status quo. So even if the risk is very high, an emergency response would not be justified if there is time to address that risk through the normal processes of policy and markets. Likewise, if the risks are manageable and can be adapted to effectively, then the disruption of an emergency response may again not be justified.
Therefore, an emergency approach is justified only if:
The risk is high; and
The consequences of failure are unmanageable or unacceptable, and
There is a time constraint governing whether a response will be effective.
In the context of knowing how disruptive treating something as an emergency can be, we can now ask the questions outlined above, in respect to climate change.
Is the threat large enough and the required response urgent enough, to justify a genuine emergency response?
The likelihood and level of the threat
How do we make a decision on risk?
To make a decision on a threat, and what the response should be, is always a judgement. It is usually a decision made by those in authority based on the evidence of experts.
In the climate debate, we are often distracted, generally by those resisting action, by arguments over the level of certainty. The argument is: “We can’t be sure - so we should not act, or at least we should act cautiously, because action is expensive and disruptive”.
History tells us however, that leaders almost never make decisions based on certainty, even if it appears so in hindsight.
For example, there was enormous controversy in the United Kingdom before WWII about how serious the threat was, and what the response should be. Many people, including highly informed experts and leaders, argued about:
The level of threat – was it really that significant?
The cost and consequences of acting on the risk – can we afford the required response? and
The possibility of adapting to the impacts – instead of confronting the cause.
We see much the same debates today on climate.
This is normal human behaviour. As it was before WWII, there is natural resistance to facing an unpleasant reality. War is not something to enter lightly. However, nobody argued in hindsight that the response to the threat was overblown. So we need to acknowledge the natural tendency to understate the risk, especially when addressing it is going to be disruptive to the status quo or the advocates’ self-interest.
This means that, in making a decision on the risk of climate change, we should carefully and impartially examine the evidence, while remaining aware of the natural human resistance to unpleasant reality.
WHAT DOES THE EVIDENCE TELL US ABOUT THE LEVEL OF THREAT?
First it should be noted that it is not the purpose of ClimateEmergency.com to present the science in comprehensive detail, as this has been done elsewhere. It will be summarised here with extensive references for those who wish to examine it further.
In considering the level of risk, we can draw from an enormous body of strong, peer reviewed science and the analysis of its conclusions by countless credible global bodies and experts in science, economics and politics.
Collectively, this body of work means the world’s most qualified people on the topic [FN1] conclude that:
The threat is here now - climate change is already dangerous today;
The threat is rapidly accelerating - and ahead of earlier predictions; and
The system on which our economy and population relies, is at risk of major global instability.
In terms of outcomes and likelihood, they conclude that we face:
Widespread negative and potentially catastrophic economic, social and environmental impacts that could last for hundreds of years, affecting all countries and many billions of people. This is close to certain.
A further level of existential risk of global economic and social collapse and the descent into chaos and conflict, lasting for centuries. This could result in the collapse of organised global society.
The question on the latter and more serious risk is not whether this outcome is certain on our current path. It is not. The question is whether there is a reasonable likelihood [FN2] of such an outcome, for which there is.
WHAT DOES THE science TELL US ABOUT THE PATH WE ARE ON TODAY?
It is difficult to comprehend a threat at the scale of the climate crisis, let alone a civilisation-wide collapse. And it is very hard to model the consequences or accurately predict the likelihood. But those who have tried to do so, provide a credible and useful reference point for the type and scale of risks involved on the path we are currently on. This work is directionally very important to judging how large the risk is, and how much disruptive action we are prepared to take to reduce the risk.
For context, today, carbon dioxide and methane levels have reached historic highs. This represents our current state of response to the risk. There has been no reduction in the emissions which are creating the risk, some 30 years after it was known climate change was a threat, despite widespread global acceptance of the urgency. We should not confuse high awareness, global treaties and debate with any effective action to alleviate the threat.
Scientist warn that even if the Paris targets were met [FN3], temperatures would surpass 1.5°C warming (the target agreed to in Paris [FN4]), and then increase by 3 to 5°C by 2100 - with additional warming beyond.
The last time the world was 3-5 degrees hotter was 15 million years ago in the Miocene. At this temperature, all of nature will be affected – all coral reefs would have disappeared decades earlier and MIT’s Lorenz Centre predicts that 2100 will ‘herald the beginning of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event’.
Seas could rise by more than 2 meters (and greater beyond 2100). Between two thirds and all of the glaciers that feed Asia and South America’s most important rivers will likely disappear. A combination of high temperature and humidity levels along the equatorial belt could see tropical regions in Asia, Africa, Australia and the America’s “largely uninhabitable for much of the year”. A large proportion of humanity, including an estimated 2 billion refugees , will need to relocate – many to areas of higher latitude or the lower southern hemisphere where agriculture will still be possible and temperatures tolerable. The global population is over 7 billion today and by 2100 it is likely to grow to 9-11 billion, all of whom will need food, water, power and somewhere to live. It seems unlikely that billions of people relocating would be a smooth or ordered process.
The IPCC reports the cost of just a 1.5° increase in temperature in 2100 at $54 trillion. This is the cost of controlled climate change – something we are not yet achieving.
The cost of the lower end of uncontrolled climate change – the path we are on today - for 3.7° warming is estimated at $550 trillion. This is more than all the wealth currently existing in the world [FN5].
Of course, such analyses are inherently complex and can only give us a directional indication, not accurate forecasts. After all, how do you value the costs of global collapse? Furthermore, there are countless unknowns in the climate system as well as the economic and biophysical responses to it. Therefore, the question is not whether these scenarios are certain on our current path. They are not. The question is whether there is a reasonable likelihood of such an outcome.
In considering that, we should remember our natural human tendency to err on assuming the more positive outcomes we hope for.
Critically, we should also note that the unknowns go in both directions – it may not be as bad as such scenarios suggest. Or it could be much, much worse.
What matters in all of the above, is that any calm and measured review of the evidence of the work of the world’s very best experts in science, economics, risk and all other fields lead us to a simple conclusion.
The threat we are facing presents a high likelihood– close to certainty - of catastrophic impacts lasting centuries and making life on earth very difficult. There is on top of that, a reasonable risk of the collapse of civilisation.
Sir David Attenborough summarised the situation very clearly, in his address to the UN Climate Summit, Katowice, Poland:
“Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change…”
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
THE SCALE, DURATION AND PREDICTABILITY OF THE THREAT
Of particular significance to the question of whether this threat justifies an emergency response are:
The scale of the threat – which is global and negative to all countries and all people [FN6];
The length of time over which the threat will impact society – certainly many hundreds of years, possibly thousands; and
The potential for rapid and unpredictable acceleration of the threat through system feedbacks which could eliminate our ability to influence or control outcomes.
As discussed, this is not a question of certainty. The system is far too complex for that. The question is whether there is a material risk of global chaos and a further risk of collapse. On that, the science and the world’s best experts are strongly and clearly aligned that there is such a material risk.
The scale, duration and unpredictable nature of the threat does not however, by itself, justify a conclusion that this is an emergency.
An emergency response requires two things to both be true:
1. That the threat is real, there is a reasonable likelihood of it occurring and it will have a large and unacceptable impact; and
2. That the response necessary to address and reduce the risk requires an abnormal level of urgency, mobilization and action. In other words, a solution cannot be delivered through normal processes of policy and market economics.
CONCLUDING ON THE LEVEL OF THREAT
Given what’s at stake is global civilization’s capacity to develop, and possibly to survive, this is quite simply the most serious risk humankind has ever faced, certainly for many thousands of years and possibly ever.
Therefore, the likelihood doesn’t need to be high to justify an emergency scale of response, no matter how disruptive that response would be. But analysis of the science by world leading experts on risk suggests the likelihood of climate change having at least very serious impacts, is in fact very high.
While the IPCC and other experts cover the likelihood of risk in some detail from a scientific view, the World Economic Forum’s annual risk report give us a perspective from experts in the world of economics and risk. The WEF 2019 Global Risk Report, draws on various experts including the Institute of Risk Management to describe changes in the global risk landscape.
In the 2019 report ‘Extreme weather events’ and ‘Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation’ were identified as the two most likely global risks from a total of 30 risks. In addition, ‘Failure of climate mitigation and adaptation’ and ‘Extreme weather events’, were included in the top three risks that have the highest global impact while climate-related risks were recognised as having the strongest influence (highest number and strength of connections) on other risks, particularly social and geopolitical.
Thus, we have a very large threat and high likelihood (together being materiality) supporting a conclusion that an emergency response is the only rational response to the science, but still only if urgency is also present.
How long do we have to address this risk?
Having concluded the risk is very high - both the size of threat and the likelihood - our next question is whether the response to the risk requires an abnormal level of mobilization and action (i.e. an emergency response), or whether it could be dealt with through the normal reform processes of policy and markets, as we are currently doing.
This is a question of both:
Scale: how broad is the change required; and
Speed: how fast do we need that change to have an impact.
The science - and the analysis of this science by other experts - give us clear information on both these issues.
For example, the IPCC’s 1.5°C report in 2018 had a headline conclusion that we need to first cut CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 (from 2010 levels) then reduce them to zero by 2050. This compares to the globally agreed Paris climate targets which involve not a 45% reduction but an increase in emissions by 2030 [FN7].
To turn the situation around in just a decade - from an increase to a massive decrease - would require a broad and transformational change in the direction and structure of the economy. This is sufficient by itself to justify an emergency response – an abnormal level of mobilisation – when added to the scale of risk and impacts described above. Only an emergency mobilisation could possibly achieve such a result in such a short time.
However, if we examine the actual science and work of the IPCC we can conclude it is highly probable that this level of action considerably understates the scale and speed of change required.
JUST HOW URGENT IS THIS? HOW SHOULD WE JUDGE THAT?
There are three issues to consider in regard to the urgency of action, remembering this all involves judgement, based on evidence:
How conservative are the scientific models’ predictions of impacts?
How conservative is our interpretation of them?
What level of risk are we prepared to take, given what’s at stake?
HOW CONSERVATIVE ARE THE FORECASTS OF IMPACTS?
There is growing evidence that, while the modelled pathways of warming rates have been broadly accurate, the IPCC have consistently underestimated the speed and scale of the climate impacts in turn caused by this warming [FN8].
This is understandable given the incredible complexity of the climate system and its influence on other natural systems, the variability and limitations of models’ data and the requirement for consensus among reviewers which tend to result in understatement of the severity of impacts. This all reinforces the natural tendency of science to be conservative.
“..IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, downplaying the more extreme and damaging outcomes...This is of particular concern with potential climatic ‘tipping points’- passing of critical thresholds which result in step changes in the climate system…Under-reporting on these issues is irresponsible, contributing to the failure of imagination in our understanding of, and response to, climate change”…If climate policy making is to be soundly based, “a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is urgently required, both in the work of the IPCC and in UN climate negotiations.Current processes will not deliver either the speed or the scale of change required”.
HOW CONSERVATIVE IS OUR INTERPRETATION OF THE FORECASTS?
How we interpret the science is a separate issue from the science itself. In this interpretation we face a further problem, particularly given the context that facing up to risks and threats at this scale is unprecedented and very difficult to do.
We should be aware of just how challenging it is for people to incorporate a threat of this nature fully into their thinking. As academic experts in how we do so concluded:“even for an honest, truth-seeking, and well-intentioned investigator it is difficult to think and act rationally in regard to… existential risks”
Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is one of the world’s leading scientists in climate impact research. He heads the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact and has acted as senior advisor to Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union. He understands the scientific process as well as anyone in the world, but is also close to political and other leaders and observes them then interpret the science.
He points out that the current climate is a “a unique situation with no precise historic analogue”in which “the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now greater, and the Earth warmer, than human beings have ever experienced”. What’s at stake “is the very survival of our civilisation, where conventional means of analysis may become useless”. (Emphasis added).
With respect to the science, Schellnhuber argues: “One should not be overly critical of the IPCC, since the scientists involved are doing what scientists are expected to do, to the very best of their ability in difficult circumstances. But climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.”
Thus we can conclude the issue is not primarily how the science is done. The problem is how we respond to it. However, even if it is understandable, the consistent pattern of underestimating impacts, leaves policymakers and all who follow the issue with an incorrect impression of the scale of the problem and the urgency of the required action.
This is because, firstly, the science is naturally conservative on the level of risk. Then, secondly, as discussed in the previous section, we default to further understating the risk because the implications of accepting and therefore addressing it are disruptive, frightening or just uncomfortable.
While we cannot have certainty, we can reasonably assume, given the above, that the risk is significantly higher than is generally recognised, while noting that the generally recognised level of risk is already very high.
This reinforces an urgency conclusion because:
It is already very urgent, using a conservative view of the risk; and
It is likely to be far more urgent than this conservative view suggests.
HOW MUCH RISK ARE WE PREPARED TO TAKE?
A second key consideration for the level of urgency, is the judgement we make on what level of risk we are prepared to take. What is our goal in terms of the likelihood of success of our planned response?
In this regard and following on from the points made about conservatism on the nature and scale of the threat, it seems the public and policy makers then misinterpret even those conservative conclusions in a quite dangerous way. A way that increases the risk of the serious and uncontrollable catastrophe of runaway climate change.
For example, as discussed above, the IPCC report on 1.5 °was widely reported as concluding we needed to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010) and then to zero CO2 emissions by 2050, to keep warming below 1.5°C [FN9]. However, what the report actually says in the detail is that this is what is required if our goal is to have around a 50% likelihood of success [FN10].
Given the risk is to the future stability of global civilisation, this is clearly an illogical level of action for global leaders and the market to plan for. It means we are effectively choosing to ‘flip a coin’ on the future of civilisation.
It is also an approach to risk that is quite out of step with any other assessment of major risk that society undertakes. No security or defence strategy or indeed any strategy dealing with a catastrophic risk in business would accept a plan of action that the best experts considered had only around a 50% likelihood of success [FN11].
We don’t need to resolve these numbers in the short term, and precision is not possible anyway in such a complex system with current knowledge and computing capacity. We do need however to make an intelligent judgement based on available expert advice.
Based on that, it seems likely we are seriously underestimating both the level of risk we face, and the level of urgency required.
Conclusion: Is a ‘Climate Emergency’ justified by the evidence?
Before we draw a conclusion on this question, it’s worth making a brief comment on the implications of the question we are addressing, to remind ourselves what’s at stake.
With a situation as dire as the evidence shows this is, society simply must not get this wrong. Facing such a time sensitive, existential risk but failing to respond adequately could commit humanity to widespread misery for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It could literally change the course of evolution and human history.
This is the real-world context for the question of whether we need an emergency response to climate change. And this context must always frame our response.
To summarise the discussion so far:
We first described what it means in practice to respond to a threat as an emergency. We considered actual historical responses to localised threats, like flooding or bushfire, through to more global emergencies such as WWII or the 2008 Financial Crisis.
What we identified from these comparisons is that shifting to an emergency mode of action is not business-as-usual undertaken with a stronger focus or intensity on a threat.
In an emergency, business as usual is suspended and an abnormal level of intensity is focused on managing the threat. This level of intensity is commensurate to the analysed threat and its likelihood and urgency.
We said that to make the decision to act in emergency mode, which is by definition and intent, disruptive to the status quo, requires two criteria to both be satisfied:
1. That the risk or threat is clear, there is a reasonable likelihood of it occurring and it will have a large and unacceptable impact if it does; and
2. That the response necessary to address and reduce the risk to an acceptable level requires an abnormal level of urgency, mobilization and action. In other words, a solution cannot be delivered through normal processes of policy and market economics.
We examined the expert advice on the first criteria and established that the threat is global and breath-taking in scale, with near certainty of widespread and severe impacts lasting for centuries, and a further, material level of risk of global collapse.
Short of full-scale nuclear war or a significant meteor strike, it is hard to imagine a greater threat to humanity than climate change.
We then examined the evidence on the second criteria - whether an abnormal level of urgency, mobilization and action was required, or if it could instead be addressed through the normal processes of policy and market economics, as we are currently doing. In other words, did we have time for the latter?
To answer this required us to determine both the scale of the action required, and the speed at which it would have to be delivered to address the risk.
The evidence produced by highly qualified people indicates that at a minimum (considering the history of underestimated impacts) we will most likely need to:
Reduce CO2 emissions by significantly more than 45% in around 10 years; and
Achieve net zero GHG emissions well before 2050; and
Remove warming gases from the atmosphere urgently to curtail system feedbacks; and
Precision on whether the level of emissions reduction needs to be 45% or 100% by 2030, or whether the ultimate goal is to cap warming at 1.5 degrees C or much less, does not need to be resolved at this stage. That’s because any target in this range requires such dramatic deviation from ‘business as usual’, and such stronger intervention than any government is planning for [FN14], that it doesn’t change the answer to our question of whether a climate emergency mobilisation is justified.
We can clearly see, from the evidence of other emergency responses by society, what pursuing targets even at the bottom of that range would mean.
It would require a high level of government intervention, backed by effective planning, policy and legislation, to drive action that is swift, ruthless and impactful. The state would need to openly communicate the magnitude of the threat and consequences of inaction; and then draw on all its own resources and the full capacity of its citizens and market participants to drive an effective response.
The economic mobilisation during WWII continues to be the best reference point for the scale and pace of economic and social intervention required. The big difference in the case of the climate emergency, however, is that most of the investment in fixing the problem will come from private not public money. It is the market that will ultimately make the investment and divestment decisions that allocate private capital to the task of transformation.
However, the market response today is nowhere near fast enough, nor at the scale required, to avoid a full-scale climate crisis. Therefore, if it is ‘left to the market’, the economy will likely collapse under the weight of climate driven instability.
Therefore, the state needs to send crystal clear and unambiguous signals to the market to act with both urgency and intensity. These signals need to include both a strong carbon price and clear objectives regarding the speed and scale of change required.
In summary therefore, the evidence clearly establishes:
The scale and level of risk - it threatens civilisation;
The scale of change required - the transformation of the economy;
The speed with which it must be delivered – largely within a decade.
Based on the evidence - even using a cautious and conservative analysis - it is clear that only shifting to an emergency mode of action could successfully address the existential risk that the climate crisis presents to humanity.
The economic argument for a climate emergency mobilisation is also powerful - as well as avoiding severe economic risks the evidence demonstrates the economic and social benefits could be considerable.
What this means is we have been warned of an imminent and immediate danger. Not just a danger to our prosperity or our level of progress but a danger to the very existence of organised civilisation. We know how to fix this and we can afford to do so.
We have been told. Now we have to choose.
“Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences …We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…” Winston Churchill, November 12, 1936
[FN1] For example:
IPCC: IPCC Press Release (8 October 2018)Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/11/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf
World Economic Forum: World Economic Forum (2019) The Global Risk Report 2019 14th Edition. Prepared in Partnership with Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risks_Report_2019.pdf
World Meteorological Organization (WMO): WMO Press Release (20 November 2018). Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere reach new record. https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/greenhouse-gas-levels-atmosphere-reach-new-record
World Bank: World Bank Climate Change Overview website (last accesses 26 June 2019). https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange/overview
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES): IBPES Report Release (6 May 2019) UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’.https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/
UN Secretary General: Secretary-General's remarks on Climate Change [as delivered] (10 September 2018). https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2018-09-10/secretary-generals-remarks-climate-change-delivered
Letter from 15,364 top scientist from 184 countries (13 November 2017). World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229#105092270
[FN2] For example, a massive meteor strike is an existential risk to civilisation, but it is very unlikely in the next few thousand years.
[FN3] We should not confuse high awareness, global treaties and debate with any action to alleviate the risk. 30 years after the issue first emerged and risk become clear, we are at our highest ever levels of the greenhouse gases which cause heating.
[FN4] The agreement states to hold average global temperature increases to “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.
[FN5] Information on 4-5 degree warmer future taken from: Vince, G (published 19 May 2019 in the Guardian) The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work. Citing: Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre; Daniel Rothman, co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Centre, Geisler & Currens (2017) and Warren, R. et al.(2018). https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/18/climate-crisis-heat-is-on-global-heating-four-degrees-2100-change-way-we-live?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR0SWuOBsh3KtyI8KVQ_61rX-nVLwRDn00tXoRN_GXlyIS6wTnTZouJHqYY
[FN6] Some countries and analysts argue some benefit from very marginal economic issues like increased crop yields. Some argue the rich will not suffer and can protect themselves. Both of these ignore the macro-economic global impacts which will cause loss to all countries and people along with the high likelihood of major security and conflict which will cause social and military instability.
[FN7] Considering current global policies, emission projections are predicted to be ~ 57-60 GtCO2e pa by 2030, this is an increase of 4-7 GtCO2e pa on approximate current emissions (2019). According to the IPCC’s 1.5°C Report, if Paris pledges and targets are met, emissions are predicted to reach 54-57 GtCO2e pa by 2030, while this is lower than out current path, it is still an increase of 1-4 GtCO2e pa on today’s emissions. Data provided by Climate Action Tracker
[FN8] Observed impacts of warming on Arctic sea ice, Polar ice mass loss and sea levels are greater than IPCC models have projected. For further review see :
Steffen et al (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene (also referred to as Hot House Earth paper). PNAS Latest Articles. http://macroecointern.dk/pdf-reprints/Steffen_PNAS_2018.pdf
Spratt & Dunlop (2018). What Lies Beneath: The understatement of existential climate risk. Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/whatliesbeneath
[FN9] It is interesting to note that in AR5, the carbon budget for a 66% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, is 302 GtCO2 larger in SR15, as it assumes heavy reliance on achieving negative emissions in the future (e.g.: BECCS and reforestation), despite there being no scale programmes in place today to act on this .
[FN10] “This report defines a ‘1.5°C pathway’ as a pathway of emissions and associated possible temperature responses in which the majority of approaches using presently available information assign a probability of approximately one-in-two (50%) to two-in-three (66%) to warming remaining below 1.5°C or, in the case of an overshoot pathway, to warming returning to 1.5°C by around 2100 or earlier”. (IPCC 2018. SR15, Ch.1,pp 60). For a 50% likelihood of limiting warming to 1.5°C (based on a carbon budget of 580 GtCO2 from 2018 levels), emissions need to reach carbon neutrality in ~ 30 years (2050 – the target identified in the reports headline statement), to increase this likelihood to 66% however, carbon neutrality would need to be reached a decade earlier - 2040(based on a carbon budget of 420 GtCO2 from 2018). (IPCC 2018. SR15, Ch.2, pp 96).
[FN11] The IPCC 1.5°report’s assessment of mitigation pathway scenarios, found no pathways were available that achieved a greater than 66% probability of limiting warming below 1.5°C during the entire 21st century (IPCC 2018. SR15, Ch.2, Table 2.1, pp 100). As indicated in footnote 9, carbon budgets (albeit with high uncertainty range) were also developed for 1.5°C. For a 50% likelihood of limiting warming (580 GtCO2from 2018), emissions need to reach carbon neutrality in ~ 30 years (2050), but to achieve a 66% likelihood (420 GtCO2 from 2018), carbon neutrality would need to be reached a decade earlier (2040) (IPCC 2018, SR15, Ch.2, pp96).
[FN12] It must be emphasized that none of these technologies are currently viable at scale in terms of technical effectiveness, cost, risk and governance. They also need to be addressed for their net social and environmental benefit.
[FN13] For additional reading on cooling and drawdown see: Randers, J & Gilding, P (2010). The one degree war plan. Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 1 No. 1 pp 170. https://paulgilding.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/one-degree-war-plan-emerald-version.pdf and Silk, E (2016) The Climate Mobilization Victory Plan. Published by The Climate Mobilization August 2016, revised March 2019. https://www.theclimatemobilization.org/victory-plan
[FN14] Assuming the successful implementation of planned NDC pledges made by governments under the Paris Agreement, the IPCC predicts that emissions will reach 52–58 GtCO2e yr−1 in 2030 (around double the 25-30 GtCO2e yr−1 required limit warming to 1.5°C) (IPCC 2018. SR15, Ch2, pp 95-96). With these emissions, warming will surpass 1.5°C and likely reach 3°C by 2100 with additional warming beyond (IPCC 2018. SR15, Ch1, pp 56).