This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a Special Report warning that world governments must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to ensure a sustainable world. But a renowned environmentalist from our region says it’s more of the same — with no enforcement mechanism to force action.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is issuing three special reports prior to issuing a full Sixth Assessment Report in 2023.
This weekend in Korea the IPCC approved the latest special report advising global governments to hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report compares effects to 2 degrees Celsius warming. Working Group 1 Co-Chair Valerie Masson-Delmotte notes there is one key message throughout the report. “If you would like to stabilize global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius the key message is that net CO2 emissions at the global scale must reach zero by 2050. And that’s the most important part of the most important finding of the report.”
IPCC Working Group 2 Co-Chair Hans-Otto Portner notes the report is the result of a huge multi-disciplinary effort. “Climate change is shaping the future of our civilization. If action is not taken it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future if we compare it to what has happened during all of human evolutionary history. So the scale of the changes that we are experiencing in the climate system is unprecedented. The scale of the changes that humans would have to implement in order to keep climate change under control is unprecedented. So it’s a challenge for human civilization and this report is therefore a milestone in conveying that message to human society.”
In 1989, 350-dot-org founder and Middlebury College Scholar in Residence Bill McKibben first published “The End of Nature.” The climate change activist is not impressed with the latest IPCC report. “This is as you know the latest in a long line of reports dating back to the early 1990’s from the IPCC and each time one comes out they do their best to ratchet up the alarm that the world’s scientists have been giving us with so far precious little effect.”
McKibben says the world is already out of balance and nothing is enough, even the report’s 1.5 degree Celsius target. “What we’re playing for now is to see if we can limit climate change to the point where we don’t wipe out civilizations, where we retain something like the planet that we once knew. And at the moment we’re headed in a direction where that won’t happen. I mean at the moment the world is on a path even after Paris for an increase of 3 and a half or 4 degrees Celsius. That is unlike anything that our species has experienced over its millions of years of evolution.”
McKibben believes the odds of governments taking action in the wake of this report are slim. “The U.S. government is clearly in the hands of an administration that doesn’t think climate change is real. The Russian government, which is the next biggest oil and gas producer on the planet, likewise, and the Saudi government which is the third biggest oil and gas producer is busy killing its critics in embassies. So the odds that I think that they’re going to get down to work on climate change are slim. I think the only real hope is that it will rouse the rest of us, civil society, into building the kind of movements that can really put pressure on corporations and governments to decisively change the way that they’ve been behaving.”