23 June 2021   Leave a comment

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the United Nations in 1988 and it was charged with the task of preparing reports every five years on the state of the Earth’s climate. Its reports since 1990 have become increasingly dire and a draft of the report due in 2022 was leaked and The Guardian was able to examine the draft. The newspaper reports:

“A draft of the IPCC report apparently from early this year was leaked to Agence France-Presse, which reported on its findings on Thursday. The draft warns of a series of thresholds beyond which recovery from climate breakdown may become impossible. It warns: ‘Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems … humans cannot.’

Tipping points are triggered when temperatures reach a certain level, whereby one impact rapidly leads to a series of cascading events with vast repercussions. For instance, as rising temperatures lead to the melting of Arctic permafrost, the unfreezing soil releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that in turn causes more heating.

“Other tipping points include the melting of polar ice sheets, which once under way may be almost impossible to reverse even if carbon emissions are rapidly reduced, and which would raise sea levels catastrophically over many decades, and the possibility of the Amazon rainforest switching suddenly to savannah, which scientists have said could come quickly and with relatively small temperature rises.”

France 24 identified four major points in the draft: 1) With 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming clocked so far, the climate is already changing; 2) “Current levels of adaptation will be inadequate to respond to future climate risks”; 3) The danger of compound and cascading impacts, along with point-of-no-return thresholds in the climate system known as tipping points, which scientists have barely begun to measure and understand; and 4)  Much can be done to avoid worst-case scenarios and prepare for impacts that can no longer be averted. The seriousness of the problem was emphasized by France 24:

“A decade ago, scientists believed that limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above mid-19th century levels would be enough to safeguard our future.

“That goal is enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted by nearly 200 nations who vowed to collectively cap warming at ‘well below’ two degrees Celsius — and 1.5 degrees if possible. 

“On current trends, we’re heading for three degrees Celsius at best. 

“Earlier models predicted we were not likely to see Earth-altering climate change before 2100. 

“But the UN draft report says that prolonged warming even beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius could produce ‘progressively serious, centuries’ long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences’. 

“Last month, the World Meteorological Organization projected a 40 percent chance that Earth will cross the 1.5-degree threshold for at least one year by 2026.”

Phys Org has a very succinct summary of the 4,000 page draft which is worth reading. The Khaleej Times also has a summary of some of the specific effects the climate crisis will have on the world’s poor.

Posted June 23, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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