The IPCC Special Report: How do we implement the goal of keeping climate change at 1.5 degrees?
Climate Change is an urgent and overwhelming problem, posing a huge challenge to all member states of the UN, every single nation, state and individual on this (dying) planet. There have been numerous different attempts to change our actions and habits towards the waste of resources, human emissions of greenhouse gases and changes in policy making: The United Nations are a big part of the fight against climate change.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty, adopted 1992, has published multiple reports regarding scientific research in relation to climate change. The reports were published by an intergovernmental body called the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which is part of the UNFCCC. The latest one of these reports, published October last year, has captured and analyzed the core argument of the Paris agreement: A long-term goal to keep the increase of global average temperature to “well below” 2 degrees.
Details about the special report
Prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups, by ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries, the report is structured in six chapters and a summary for policy makers. Working Group I addresses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaption and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change. All the papers and reports of the IPCC have been written with the purpose of providing the world with an objective, scientific and unpolitical view of climate change, and its natural, political and economic risks and impacts. The following information only captures a small part of the multilayered report, that resulted in a call of action to everyone, not only in regard to the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases.
The starting position of the report is the estimation of the approximately 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, caused by human activities, with a likely range of 0.8 to 1.2 degrees Celsius. The impact has already hit many areas, with some of the consequences among others being extreme weather, a rising sea level, coral bleaching, loss of ecosystems and the diminishing ice in the Arctic Sea. Furthermore, the report states the necessity of limiting the rise of global temperature to 1.5 degrees instead of the goal “well under” 2 degrees which was determined in the Paris agreement: “Every extra bit of warming matters” (Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II).
“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared with 2 degrees would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” said P. Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. For instance, by 2100, global sea levels would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees compared with 2 degrees. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per cent with global warming of 1.5 degrees, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. The report finds that limiting global would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, buildings, transports and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” around 2015. The pathway of keeping global warming lays amongst other approaches within carbon budget handling, reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases, the development of alternative energy, geoengineering and negative emission technologies.
The decisions we make NOW in these coming years are probably the most important ones in our and our planet’s history. Present delegates representing various member states of the UN now face the challenge to oversee all the underlying problems of the multilayered problem of climate change and how to tackle it. Apart of the long-term goal of limiting global average temperature rising to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, the Paris Agreement bases firstly on communal consent of all actors and collaboration of all UN member states; secondly on a system of transparency and accountability between all actors.
Keeping these important aspects in mind, it is of crucial importance for each delegate present to know your country’s opinion towards the Paris Agreement and the actions which are being taken in the framework of the agreement. Electrical trains running on the Dutch National Rail Network are already powered by only wind energy. In June 2017 the US under President Trump announced their intention to withdraw from the agreement, with changes in the United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement having already been put in place. In July 2017 French Environment Minister N. Hulot announced a plan to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles in France by 2040 as part of the Paris agreement. The recently elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised during his election campaign that Brazil would pull out of the agreement. Both China and India have committed to surprisingly high emission targets under the agreement. As you can see, there are numerous different stands on how to handle the omnipresent problem climate change.
Some help to start your research:
The IPCC and the special report
- About the IPCC: https://www.ipcc.ch/about/
- The special report and the individual chapters: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
- Summary for policy makers: https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/
The Paris agreement and political developments
Greta Thunberg, aka what happens if we don’t act?
- CNN’s summary on the special report, October 2017: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/07/world/climate-change-new-ipcc-report-wxc/index.html
- Kerala floods: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/kerala-floods-reveal-the-horror-that-is-climate-change-61435
- Youth standing up all around Europe: https://www.bernerzeitung.ch/articles/27799773
- How climate is changing / Long term consequences in the United States: https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/