Expert Panel’s Startling Recent Reports
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate change, has put out several major reports since 1990. When not completely ignored by the American public, they’ve been met with a collective shrug. At least, that was the case until last year. 2018 was different. Between the startling report itself and the extraordinary number of natural disasters in the United States in recent years, the public suddenly paid closer attention.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C” as “an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world.” It stated emphatically that we must reduce our fossil fuel consumption by 45% in twelve years (from 2010 levels) and then reach “net zero” around 2050, if we want to have any chance of keeping global warming to 1.5C. That's s the ideal target agreed upon in Paris in 2015, since beyond that the effects of warming are far more severe, even catastrophic, as the report made clear.
A 45% reduction in twelve years is an extremely difficult target to reach, given current rates of fossil fuel consumption. In fact, according to a subsequent report from the world’s leading climate science organizations, the “United in Science” study released this September for the UN Climate Action Summit, the commitments countries have made to date are woefully inadequate. They must be increased three-fold, possibly five-fold, in order for the 1.5C target to be reached. As things stand, we are heading for an inconceivable rise in average global temperatures of around 3.1C (5.6F) by 2100.
The report is not all bleak, however. It argues that the gap can still be reduced, and global warming kept to a safe level. To do so, however, there must be a dramatic and rapid shift in current commitments and actions.
And there is, in fact, a great deal going on, both internationally and within the US, despite the Trump administration’s refusal to even acknowledge the crisis. In our next issue, we’ll look at what is being done in California and around the nation, both by state governments and private utilities. It’s a complicated, but promising picture, given the dramatic decline in cost for solar and wind energy generation.
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