The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has compiled evidence on the impacts of and pathways to 1.5°C global warming, the aspirational limit in the Paris Agreement. This has been the basis of a special report which is being considered by the 48thSession of the IPCC on 1-5 October 2018 in Incheon, Republic of Korea1. A draft copy of this document was leaked some time ago, and while not the final version, it is of enormous interest as it explains what we will likely be up against if we are lucky enough to keep global warming to the 1.5°C limit hoped for by the Paris Agreement.
For starters, the baseline from which that 1.5°C increase is measured has to be agreed upon and it is what is termed the ‘pre-industrial global mean’. This is based on the 51-year period from 1850 to 19002. The Earth is already 1.0°C warmer.
Preventing the worst depredations of climate change is unfortunately dependent on the ability and motivation of governments in many nations. The problem is with the profoundly poor quality of many politicians around the world, of which the Australian federal government is a prime example. Given the high-level findings listed below, interpretations of these in light of the inability of governments to get their respective acts together effectively, can be made, and I do.
The report has found the following:
- There is a very high risk that under current emission trajectories and national pledges, global warming will exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels2. This is interpreted as: there is no chance that we will keep warming below 1.5°C.
- Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, climatic trends and changing extreme events in oceans and over land imply risks for ecosystems and human societies larger than today, especially where vulnerabilities are highest2. This is interpreted as: weather events will be more severe.
- Sea level rise will continue for centuries at 1.5°C2. This is interpreted as: waterfront properties, villages, town and cities will be drowned.
- In a 1.5°C warmer world, climate change will affect people in countries at all levels of development, but those most at risk are people and communities experiencing severe poverty2. This is interpreted as: nobody is immune, but the poor will suffer the most.
- Holding global warming to below 1.5°C implies transformational adaptation and mitigation, behaviour change, supportive institutional arrangements and multi-level governance2. This is interpreted as: there is no chance we will keep warming below 1.5°C.
- Emissions reductions in all sectors would be needed in order to meet the long-term temperature goal of 1.5°C2. This is interpreted as: there is no chance that we will keep warming below 1.5°C.
- Delayed action or weak near-term policies increase mitigation challenges in the long term and increase the risks associated with exceeding 1.5°C temporarily or in the long term2. This is interpreted as: it is already too late to keep warming below 1.5°C.
- Modelling suggests that having a 66% likelihood of holding warming below 1.5°C without at least a temporary overshoot is already out of reach2. This is interpreted as: it is already too late to keep warming below 1.5°C.
While many halfwit climate change deniers may think another 1.5°C will be simply more pleasant, this is not the case, because the climate is a complex system and the increase in global average temperature will not be uniform. Climate scientists understand this, as do most other scientists, but deniers are too limited to do so. In some regions, the rise in extreme temperatures is projected to be more than three times larger than the global mean temperature rise3. These increases will disproportionately affect already disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. These effects will include food insecurity and increased food prices, lost livelihoods, adverse health impacts and population displacements2. These population displacements are likely to dwarf those currently afflicting the Middle East.
In addition to non-uniform temperature rises, precipitation patterns will change. This is already happening in Australia. Overall, precipitation has increased slightly since 1900, but there has been a large increase over northwestern Australia since 1970, while a declining trend in winter rainfall persists in southwestern Australia, and autumn and early winter rainfall has been below average since 19903.
Global mean sea level has increased throughout the 20th century and in 2012 was 225 millimetres higher than in 1880. Rates of sea level rise vary around the Australian region, with rates higher in the north and rates in the south and east being about the same as the global average3. Currently the rate of global sea level rise is about 3.3 millimetres per year4. At that rate, by 2100, sea level will be another 270 millimetres higher than currently. However, with increased global warming, that rate of sea level rise is likely to increase.
While I and most of the federal politicians will be long gone before things get much worse on this planet, what does it say about their concern for their children and grandchildren that they are content to let the planet deteriorate? This is simply so they can maintain the level of donations from overseas climate denial organisations and from the fossil fuel industry; donations on which they have become dependent, so they can buy advertising to get the gullible and uninformed to vote for them. What can we do? Vote them out, especially the deniers. The Liberal Party candidate for former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate of Wentworth has consistently refused to answer questions regarding his attitude to global warming, so I can only presume he does not believe it is happening5.
Other deniers in the House of Representatives include, Tony Abbott (electorate Warringah), Kevin Andrews (Menzies), George Christensen (Dawson), Alex Hawke (Mitchell), Barnaby Joyce (New England), Bob Katter (Kennedy), Craig Kelly (Hughes), Ken O’Dowd (Flynn), Tony Pasin (Barker), Angus Taylor (Hume) and Tim Wilson (Goldstein)6. Others have kept quiet about their views.
Other deniers in the Senate include, from Tasmania, Eric Abetz, David Bushby and Jonathon Duniam; from South Australia, Cory Bernardi; from New South Wales, Brian Burston, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and David Leyonhjelm; from Queensland, Mattew Canavan, Pauline Hanson, Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan; from Western Australia, Michaelia Cash; and from Victoria, James Paterson6. Others have kept quiet about their views.
When the next federal election rolls around (and it should by May 2019), if you have children or plan to, and if your children have children, or plan to, then think of them when you vote. If you want any action on climate change, and if you are in the electorates of any of these venal deniers who currently sit in the House of Representatives you should vote for someone else and give your last preference to these deniers, because they do not care for your children or theirs. All they are concerned about is keeping the donations rolling in to their party’s coffers. The same goes for any of the Senators who may have to stand for election given that, barring a double dissolution election, there will be a half-senate election by May 2019. If any of these Senators are up for re-election, give them your last preference too.
Given the way the governments of the USA, China, India, Australia and others are acting, I think there should be preparations for at least a warming of 1.5 degrees. The next generation will be living in “interesting times”
The change to renewables is happening, but it may not be fast enough, given, as you say the antipathy of our government. It is criminal.