Climate Change

IPCC report says deafening fire alarm is on, 1.5° C goal is improbable. But we are busy lighting new fires

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special report[i] titled “GLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5° C”. In the official Press Release on Monday, Oct 8, 2018[ii] from Incheon, South Korea, IPCC said: “Limiting global warming to 1.5° C would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment.” In reality, the world is experiencing much bigger impacts of 1°C rise than what IPCC projected and that would also be true for 1.5° C.

Such changes that IPCC says are required to limit warming to 1.5° C have never happened, and there are no signs of such changes happening. On the contrary, all available indicators including functioning of governments and societies around the world, including major emitters including US, China, India, Russia, EU, Brazil show that Global Green House Gas(GHG) emissions are likely to increase.

Key findings The Negotiated (between scientists and the governments) document that IPCC released on Oct 8, 2018 will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 24) in Poland in December 2018, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5ºC, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. Here are key findings of the report.

  • Human activities are estimated to have already caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely increase already up to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C as early as 2030, possibly earlier. Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely up to 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions.
  • Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions post 2050 would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.
  • (Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C) Some impacts may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems (high confidence). Of 105,000 species studied, 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates are projected to lose over half of their climatically determined geographic range for global warming of 1.5°C, compared with 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates for global warming of 2°C.
  • Temperature extremes on land are projected to warm more than Global Mean Surface Temperature (high confidence): extreme hot days in mid-latitudes warm by up to about 3°C at global warming of 1.5°C and about 4°C at 2°C, and extreme cold nights in high latitudes warm by up to about 4.5°C at 1.5°C and about 6°C at 2°C (high confidence). The number of hot days is projected to increase in most land regions, with highest increases in the tropics (high confidence).
  • Sea level will continue to rise well beyond 2100 (high confidence). Model-based projections of global mean sea level rise (relative to 1986-2005) suggest an indicative range of 0.26 to 0.77 m by 2100 for 1.5°C global warming.
  • Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to shift the ranges of many marine species, to higher latitudes as well as increase the amount of damage to many ecosystems. It is also expected to drive the loss of coastal resources, and reduce the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture (especially at low latitudes).
  • Marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica and/or irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet could be triggered around 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming & result in multi-metre rise in sea level over hundreds to thousands of years.
  • Populations at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of global warming of 1.5°C and beyond include disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods (high confidence). Regions at disproportionately higher risk include dryland regions (high confidence). Unfortunately, neither Indian government or its celebrated National Action Plan on Climate Change even identify the climate vulnerable sections of India’s population, leave aside the question of justice for the impacts they are already suffering.
  • A wide range of adaptation options are available to reduce the risks to natural and managed ecosystems (e.g., ecosystem-based adaptation, ecosystem restoration and avoided degradation and deforestation, biodiversity management, sustainable aquaculture, and local knowledge and indigenous knowledge), the risks of sea level rise (e.g., coastal defence and hardening), and the risks to health, livelihoods, food, water, and economic growth, especially in rural landscapes (e.g., efficient irrigation, social safety nets, disaster risk management, risk spreading and sharing, community-based adaptation) and urban areas (e.g., green infrastructure, sustainable land use and planning, and sustainable water management).
Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 12.35.30 PM
Source: IPCC 1.5 C report, Oct 2018

Mitigation On Mitigation, some key conclusions of the latest report are:

  • By the end of 2017, anthropogenic CO2 emissions since the preindustrial period are estimated to have reduced the total carbon budget for 1.5°C by approximately 2200 ± 320 Gt CO2. The associated remaining budget is being depleted by current emissions of 42 ± 3 Gt CO2 per year. Using global mean surface air temperature, as in AR5 (IPCC Assessment Report 5), gives an estimate of the remaining carbon budget of 580 GtCO2 for a 50% probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 420 GtCO2 for a 66% probability. Alternatively, using GMST gives estimates of 770 and 570 GtCO2, for 50% and 66% probabilities, respectively. This means that even if we were to take higher allowance, we have budget for just 14 years (10 for lower figure) at current emission levels, when we have not achieved the reduction for over two decades since we started talking about such reductions.
  • In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. For limiting global warming to below 2°C CO2 emissions are projected to decline by about 20% by 2030 in most pathways and reach net zero around 2075.
  • Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems (high confidence). These systems’ transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options.
  • In 1.5°C pathways with no or limited overshoot, renewables are projected to supply 70–85% of electricity in 2050; the use of CCS (CO2 capture and storage) would allow the electricity generation share of gas to be approximately 8% of global electricity in 2050, while the use of coal shows a steep reduction in all pathways and would be reduced to close to 0% (0–2%) of electricity by 2050. Incidentally, the World Coal Association religiously pushes CCS so that coal use for fuel continues.
  • The feasibility of achieving pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot is based on assumption of the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) of the order of 100–1000 Gt CO2 over the 21st However, as the report notes: “CDR deployment of several hundreds of Gt CO2 is subject to multiple feasibility and sustainability constraints”.
  • Another untested assumption is BECCS: bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. This would mean that, in a world projected to have more than 2 billion additional people by 2050, large swaths of land currently used to produce food would instead have to be converted to growing trees that store carbon and crops designated for energy use. The latter would be used as part of a currently almost nonexistent program to get power from trees or plants and then bury the resulting carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, leading to a net subtraction of the gas from the air.
  • Estimates of the global emissions outcome of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions as submitted under the Paris Agreement would lead to global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 of 52–58 Gt CO2eq yr-1. Pathways reflecting these ambitions would not limit global warming to 1.5°C, even if supplemented by very challenging increases in the scale and ambition of emissions reductions after 2030. Pathways reflecting current nationally stated mitigation ambition until 2030 are broadly that result in a global warming of about 3°C by 2100, with warming continuing afterwards.
  • And the Trump administration recently released an analysis assuming about 4°C by 2100 if the world takes no action.

Global Emissions break up Source-Washington Post

This is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use. IPCC’s 1.5° 34 page report for policy makers[iii] lists five Indians among 91 authors of Draft report: Minal Pathak, Aromar Revi, Joyashree Roy, Priyadarshi R.Shukla, Chandni Singh.

The report makes tautological statements: The impacts with 1.5°-degree rise will be lower than 2°-degree rise!

  • For example, the PR says: “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. Of course it will, but does that help?

As The Washington Post reported on Oct 8, 2018[iv], “The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change… The transformation described in the document is breathtaking, and the speed of change required raises inevitable questions about its feasibility.” The report should have added that US is one of the biggest culprit.

The Post also rightly notes that the IPCC “tends to be conservative in its conclusions (also see more detailed paper on this: https://www.ecologise.in/2018/10/08/the-ipcc-systematically-underestimates-climate-risks/). That’s because it is driven by a consensus-finding process, and its results are the product of not only science, but negotiation with governments over its precise language.” So typically IPCC did not even say that considering the track record of the world and current trajectory, if there is ANY CHANCE of limiting the warming to 1.5°C. The proposition is not just improbable, its impossible looking at the past track record and current trajectory.

The Post report in the end notes: “Meanwhile, instead of continuing to deforest large areas for livestock and other uses, humans would have to embark on a large-scale program of reforestation, planting or restoring trees over enormous areas.”

But Indian govt is still busy deforesting for dubious projects destroying natural forests, like the Ken Betwa River Link, Char Dham All Weather Highway, and Dibang and other massive hydropower projects. India still swears by discredited National Action Plan on Climate Change, which was only a collection of business as usual projects, put together by a club of dozen odd wise people, in completely undemocratic, non participatory way.

Ironically, the head of Indian Govt, Prime Minister, was recently given by the same UNEP that hosts IPCC, Champion of the Earth award!

So who is really serious about tackling global warming? If there is any chance for 1.5°C goal, the Citizens around the world have no options left, but to adopt least climate impact life style and push others and governments to do the same.

SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[i] http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

[ii] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf

[iii] http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

[iv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/10/08/world-has-only-years-get-climate-change-under-control-un-scientists-say/

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