A big report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week. This report marked an interesting shift in tone from the world’s climate scientists: a more urgent, a more engaged, and a more hopeful, tone.
The evidence of the last two years suggests that the earth’s climate is more sensitive to rising CO2 emissions than previously thought. Global temperatures are now at 1°C above pre-industrial levels and we are seeing much more extreme weather conditions around the globe, with painful impacts on our economies, on agriculture, and on biodiversity.
The growing evidence that dangerous climatic tipping points are approaching more rapidly than expected has shifted opinion among the scientific community. The previous political target of limiting global warming to 2°C is now seen as dangerous and they are advocating for a stronger target of 1.5°C. Furthermore, they set out various technical pathways by which the world can make this happen. The report speaks not just to policy makers, but to individuals, calling on us all to change our diets, conserve energy, and change the way we travel.
This could all feel even more depressingly impossible, given President Trump is now embedding policies that will commit the world to at least a 4°C temperature rise, yet it is quite heartening that climate scientists are repeating their message more firmly: no, even 2°C of warming is too dangerous for humanity, it will be easier for us to stabilise temperatures at 1.5°C than to adapt to a 2°C world. The increased ambition suggests scientists are slowly adopting a less detached and more visionary voice, which is hopeful at this moment in time.
“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now.”
– Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts