In an interview with BBC on 16 January 2020, Sir David Attenborough said ‘the moment of crisis has come” and that “we have been putting things off year after year”. He refers to our efforts to tackle climate change (Shukman, 2020).
He cites that the bushfires in Australia are due to increasing temperatures due to warming caused by human activity. Scientists also believe climate change is one of the factors behind the Australian bushfires (Shukman, 2020).
There is a need for a rapid response from countries and governments worldwide. Still, disappointingly, some countries like Brazil and Australia are backing down from their commitments to reduce emissions (Mc Grath, 2018).
In 2018, the UN climate science panel spelled out how to avoid the most dangerous temperature rise in the future – one that exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius. But judging by how things are going now, the world is on track to a 3-degree Celsius temperature rise within this century (Mc Grath, 2018).
Keeping the temperature rise below 1.5°C within the first half of this century is a daunting task in itself as it could mean rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in society, tasks that some governments hesitate to do. Not only will it be a huge challenge, but it is also very expensive. The IPCC estimates the energy sector’s investment cost to be around $2.4 trillion between 2016 and 2035 (Mc Grath, 2018).
With costs also come benefits
Dr Stephen Cornelius, a former UK IPCC negotiator, says that big emissions cuts in the short term will be costly but still cheaper than carbon removal later this century (Mc Grath, 2018). Carbon removal is anticipated when mitigation efforts to curb emissions today will prove unsuccessful.
Mc Grath (2018) proposes steps to help us stay below 1.5 Celsius temperature rise.
- Global carbon dioxide emissions need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
- Renewables should provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050.
- Coal phased out close to zero.
- Up to 7 million square km of land will be needed to grow crops for energy.
- Global net zero emissions by 2050.
Prof Jim Skea says that even if all governments fulfil their Paris agreements pledges for 2030, it is not good enough. Governments need to start working immediately to keep 1.5 within reach. Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace added that this is the moment that we will remember, the year when the turning point happened.
In 2018, the UN climate science panel said emissions from power station stations, factories, vehicles and the agriculture sectors should be almost halved by 2030; instead, emissions are still increasing today rather than falling (Shukman, 2020).
Turning the tide on climate change
Scientists are seeing the year 2020 as the final window of opportunity to really turn the tide on climate change.
On November 2020, the UK hosted a COP26 UN summit, which is crucial for governments attending to toughen their targets for cutting emissions (Shukman, 2020).
The reason is clear, “We actually depend upon the natural world for every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat,” said David Attenborough (Shukman, 2020).
What happens if the temperature rises above 1.5 Celsius?
Scientists believe there will be significant and dangerous changes in the world. Corral reefs will be wiped out at 2 degrees of warming, and global sea levels will rise by 4 inches or 10 cm.
A few inches seems small, but keeping the temperature rise at 1.5 C will mean fewer than 10 million will be at risk of flooding. Other effects would be ocean temperature rise and acidification of oceans, and difficulty in growing crops like rice, maize, and wheat.
Below is a short video by the BBC explaining climate change and how it affects the world.
To use the references in this blog post, please refer to these citations:
Shukman, D. (2020, January 16). Sir David Attenborough warns of climate ‘crisis moment’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51123638
Mc Grath, M. (2018, October 2018). Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’. BBC News. Science and Environment. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45775309