The IPCC Report and the County’s responsibility to take action
Global Warming of 1.5C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report assessing and summarizing the currently-available literature on global warming. The IPCC is a group of the world’s top scientists commissioned by the United Nations with the goal of distilling the current science on climate change. The panel’s goal is to provide objective and accurate reports on climate change and its political and economic impacts.
To put it plainly, the report lays out how the effects of surpassing a 2℃ warming would be catastrophic. Poor people and communities in the Global South are experiencing the worst effects of climate change-- including diseases, displacement, and famine-- and will continue to be impacted as we further warm our climate. Allowing temperatures to reach 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels presents similar challenges that are unprecedented for our global society, but limiting warming to this level would reduce the number people drastically affected by the changed climate.
The IPCC report spells out catastrophe, but it also presents a solution. The actions required to limit warming are unprecedented, but so is this level of anthropogenic (human-caused) warming. There is hope that with rapid and drastic shifts in our global society, we could limit global warming and move towards a more sustainable and more equitable world.
The IPCC Report uses the scientific literature as a resource and call to action for people in power and policymakers to implement the changes necessary to limit global warming. This document compares the effects of a 1.5℃ increase to a 2℃ increase and presents the pathways that would limit warming.
Being a coastal county with large oil and gas and agriculture industries, the IPCC’s call to action is very relevant in Ventura County. While a global shift and international cooperation is necessary to avoid the worst of the damage, changes on a local scale can be the first step in the global movement. A commitment to these recommendations would lead to greater emissions reduction with a focus on planning for environmental justice which would ensure underserved communities are prioritized as our communities address the impacts of climate change.
Since the Industrial Revolution, global average temperatures have increased by about 1℃, and we are seeing the impacts of this warming in more frequent wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. The IPCC assessed over 6,000 scientific studies to answer the following questions:
- What if we global warming was limited to a 1.5℃ increase?
- What would be the effects of placing a 1.5℃ limit compared to a 2℃ limit?
- And what would it take to meet this goal of 1.5℃?
At the 2016 Paris climate agreement, members of the UN member nations committed to limiting warming to 2℃ or less above pre-industrial temperatures, with a more ambitious goal of 1.5℃ or less. This significant reduction in the warming trend is so important because it is needed to stall and/or stop climate change. This IPCC report was commissioned by the UN following the signing of the Paris agreement.
Fossil fuels have to go-- Move the money over to clean energy:
As the report lays out, the fossil fuel industry is a main producer of greenhouse gases and therefore a top contributor to our problem. This industry must undergo drastic changes for the world to be successful in curbing global warming. Like all for-profit industries, the fossil fuel industry is driven by the continual opportunity and need to increase profits. The IPCC acknowledges this fact and greatly emphasizes the influence of financial investments in its policy suggestions, calling out the need to financially incentivize clean energy while disincentivising fossil fuels. We need to drastically increase investments into low-carbon energy alternatives and direct finance towards mitigation and adaptation efforts. In pathways limiting warming to 1.5℃, renewable sources are expected to supply up to 85% of our electricity needs by 2050.
The report further emphasizes the importance of centering the interests of people most affected by the impacts of climate change, most notably poor people and people in the Global South. Adaptations should include attention to poverty, be gender-sensitive, and accepted by the public to ensure that people are not made worse-off as a result. Further, all policies should take regional contexts into account, including local and indigenous knowledge of the area and equitable transition of industry.
Effects of Warming:
If temperatures continue to increase at the current rate, we would reach a 1.5℃ temperature increase between 2030 and 2052, and a 3℃ increase by the end of the century. We are now, in 2018, at about a 1℃ temperature increase from pre-industrial temperatures. With a 2℃ increase:
- Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5℃ and increase further with 2℃
- Populations at a disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of global warming include: disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods
- Poverty and hunger: Limiting global warming to 1.5℃ compared with 2℃ could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050. This 1.5℃ limit may also reduce the proportion of the world population exposed to water stress resulting from climate change by up to 50%
- 70-90% of coral reefs will be lost with a 1.5℃ warming, and virtually all coral reefs will be lost with a 2℃ warming
- With a 1.5℃ warming, the Arctic will be completely devoid of ice during summer at least once a decade instead of once per century with a 2℃ warming
- Sea level rise is projected to be 0.1 meter lower with global warming of 1.5℃ compared to 2℃ above industrial temperatures. This 0.1 meter difference will lead to 10 million fewer people being exposed to the risks related to sea level rise, without accounting for adaptation
- UN is holding climate talks in Katowice, Poland in December, that are meant to establish rules based on the Paris climate targets that will guide governments to cut emissions and avert disaster
There’s no escaping the facts that climate change is happening and that we are responsible for addressing it. We need to keep our world livable, not only for our kids and grandkids in the future, but for us and now. Ventura County has the opportunity and the resources to act to protect our County.
Lynna Ohanian is serving with CFROG in her role as an AmeriCorps fellow through the CivicSpark Climate program.