Uncomfortable conversations

If the world stopped emitting carbon today, limiting the increase of global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial periods would be possible.

Uncomfortable conversations

And then catastrophic scenarios of rapid glacier melting, more frequent and more powerful weather disturbances—worse than what we are seeing now—would be prevented.

The problem is that stopping the emissions altogether would be a near-impossible task, given how the world has been operating. According to The Global Carbon Project, global emissions reached 36.18 billion tons of carbon in 2016.

Broken down per nation, China is the worst polluter at 10.15 billion, followed by the United States and India at 5.31 billion tons and 2.3 billion tons, respectively.

A report released last week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a body composed of over 100 scientists— revealed that a “rapid and far-reaching transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before” is needed.

The world’s emissions “would have to be on an extremely steep downward path by 2030 to either hold the world entirely below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or allow only a brief ‘overshoot’ in temperatures,” says The Washington Post.

The Post reports: Overall reductions in the next ten years would likely need to be more than 1 billion tons annually. The report also calls for a total or near-total phaseout of the burning of coal. Electricity from renewables will have to increase to 50 or 60 percent from the current 24. Existing coal and gas plants have to be prevented from spewing carbon onto the air. Renewable energy should power most transportation means. At present, just 4 percent of road transportation is powered by renewable fuels.

The report says that the situation is dire and that terrible things will happen in the next decades if mankind refuses to do what is necessary. But that is nothing new; it has been obvious from the beginning.

What it really does is to pose a question anew to decision-makers around the world: Are they willing to do more than deliver impassioned rhetoric during forums and negotiations, and translate what they say they believe into measurable action?

Everybody except climate deniers will agree that the word needs to take drastic measures to prevent worst-case scenarios. Perhaps it is a comfort to our generation that we will all be gone when these scenarios take place with alarming normalcy.

Then again, isn’t it even more distressing to contemplate that all these will be witnessed by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

Grim climate change talk is indeed nowhere as exciting as the latest quarrels in government or the controversies among people in power. But the threat of danger is constant, like low but persistent humming that never quite goes away. This is exactly why we need to have the uncomfortable conversations now, weighing interest against interest, consequence against consequence, before that humming gets even louder.

Topics: Climate Change , The Global Carbon Project , United Nations Intergovernmental Panel , China , The Washington Post
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