The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is an International organization which is part of the UN. In a recent report the IPCC says we have only 20 years left before it is too late to turn back to cooler times.
The IPCC is made up of thousands of scientists and other experts who contribute on a voluntary basis to writing and reviewing reports on climate warming. These reports are then reviewed by many others scientists and various national governments.
The basic job of the IPCC is to provide the world with objective, scientific information for understanding the risks of human-induced climate change.
IPCC reports always contain a “Summary for Policymakers”, which is subject to line-by-line approval by delegates from all participating governments. Typically, this involves the governments of more than 120 countries.
If anything the IPCC is far too slow and cautious. It has to be; that is its job to be careful, objective and cautious. When 120 world governments have scientists involved in writing these reports, and when every important statement has to be signed off by all participants, it can’t be anything other than slow, meticulous and cautions.
The IPCC has been making regular reports over the years on the dangers of global warming. The report covered in this essay was published in October of 2018. It was a special report that was probably the most terrifying ever made by the IPCC. It covers the immense importance of keeping temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 degrees C. It doesn’t even think about the possibility of temperatures rising to 4.3 degrees or 5.6 degrees or possible even 7 or 9 degrees by the end of the century. All of these more ominous possibilities are also currently being discussed in separate studies and reports in the scientific journals almost daily.
But never mind all of those higher temperatures, 1.5 degrees C is bad enough. The IPCC says we have only 20 years left if we want to stay under 1.5 degrees C of warming.
There have been other dire warmings from the IPCC but this one in October of 2018 was the one that caught many peoples attention.
Shortly after the report was published, Jeff Turrentine wrote an article in the NRDC publication “On Earth.” The title of Turrrentine’s article is “Climate Scientists to World: We have only 20 years before there’s no turning back.” This is an excellent article and all the quotations in the rest of my post are from Turrentine’s article. A link to this article is at the bottom of my post.
Turrentine says in his article that 90 climate scientists from 40 countries are convinced that “if humans don’t take immediate, collective action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, the consequences will effectively be baked into the natural systems of the planet.”
The extreme droughts, devastating wildfires, massive floods, deadly hurricanes, devastating epidemics and widespread famines that are so common today are going to become regular occurrences and much worse in just a few more years. The IPCC report says that we need to cut global carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 to avoid a global catastrophe. The report says that this catastrophe is no longer something in the distant future. It is going to be real in the very near future.
This report by the IPCC is different from it’s previous reports. This time the report says that the dangers of global warming are immanent and urgent. This time, says Turrentine, the report states “unequivocally that governments must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” if we’re to beat the clock and save the planet.”
The report by the IPCC says that, at minimum, we need to phase out coal completely and replace it with renewables. We need to electrify our cars and busses and all other vehicles. And most crucially we have to save our carbon-trapping forests.
Unfortunately, the cost of all of this will be very expensive. Turrentine says that “the IPCC soberly estimates, it will be nothing less than 2.5 percent of global GDP. To help pay this tremendously large bill, the IPCC authors propose a worldwide carbon tax of as much as $27,000 per ton.”
Could such a massive effort be even possible? In his article Turrentine says yes. We have made massive efforts in the past and succeeded. Think of the invention and development of the polio vaccine. Think of the massive five year effort to win the Second World War.
Turrentine says that “Unlike WWII, it’s a fight we know up front we can win. We have not only the technology and the solutions to do it, but also the twin benefits of scientific foresight and historical hindsight at our disposal. The former tells us what awaits us if we don’t come together. The latter tells us what we can accomplish if we do.”
I hope he is right.
More reading on this subject
Summary: The IPCC says we have only 20 years left if we want to save the earth. “Some 90 climate scientists from 40 countries concluded that if humans don’t take immediate, collective action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, the consequences will effectively be baked into the natural systems of the planet. With so much heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere, there will be, in effect, no turning back.”