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 is referring to our efforts to tackle climate change (Shukman, 2020).
He cites the bushfires in Australia is due to increasing temperatures due to warming caused by human activity. Scientists also believe that 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 all over the world but 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 has spelled out how to avoid the most dangerous temperature rise in the future – one that exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius. But judging on how things are going at the moment, the world is on track to a 3 degree Celsius temperature rise within this century (Mc Grath, 2018).
Keeping the temperature rise to 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 cost of investment to the energy sector to be around $2.4 trillion between 2016 and 2035 (Mc Grath, 2018).
With costs also comes benefits
Dr. Stephen Cornelius a former UK IPCC negotiator, says that making big emissions cuts in the short term will be costly but will still be cheaper than carbon removal later this century (Mc Grath, 2018). Carbon removal is anticipated when mitigation effort to curb emissions today will prove unsuccessful.
Mc Grath (2018) proposes some steps to help us stay below 1.5 Celsius temperature rise.
- Global emissions of carbon dioxide 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 really need to start working immediately and more 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 has happened.
In 2018, the UN climate science panel said that 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 is hosting a COP26 UN summit, this is crucial for governments attending to really 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 that there will be some significant and dangerous changes in the world. Corrals reefs will be wiped out at 2 degrees of warming, global sea-levels will rise by 4 inches or 10 cm.
A few inches seems small but this means that keeping 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 to grow crops like rice, maize, and wheat.
Below is a short video by the BBC explaining climate change and how it is affecting the world right now.
BACKGROUND PHOTO CREDIT: By Takver from Australia – Climate emergency – Melbourne #MarchforScience on #Earthday, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link