The latest IPCC report released on Monday essentially lets the world know just how big a hole it has gotten itself into. The good thing is it also lets us all know how we can get out. The problem of course is that when you are in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging.

Lest there still be any misunderstanding – whether it be through ignorance or due to listening to those in the media and politics who seek to mislead – the climate right now is warmer than it has been in modern human history.

The latest IPCC report makes is clear that annual temperatures now are warmer than they were during “the warmest multi-century period in at least the last 100,000 years”. That period stretches back to a time when homo sapiens were still able to bump into neanderthals and wonder who would go extinct first.

If we look at the common era of the past 2020 years, the temperature now is almost 1 degree warmer than it ever has been in that duration:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

And I’m sorry to say, the cause isn’t sunspots, or movements of the planet or wiggles in the space-time continuum.

Nope, the reason the world is warmer now is people:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

The IPCC estimates that natural causes – which range from solar activity to volcanic eruptions (such as the one in Krakatoa in 1883 which lowered temperatures) – have seen temperatures rise a mere 0.05C above the average from 1850-1900.

In effect, nothing.

But human activity has increased temperatures by nearly 1.2C.

That would not be so bad were that the end point. Alas we continue to churn out emissions with the gay abandon of a people who have spent the past 30-40 years ignoring the advice of scientists and re-electing those who not only ignore the science but reject it outright.

We in the media can share much of the blame as well.

In 2018, within nine months of a federal election, the IPCC issued a report explaining what needed to be done to keep temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

It explained that we needed to cut emissions by around 45% by 2030.

And yet when we came to the election it was the Labor party that faced most questions about the cost of its plan to cut emissions by that very same 45% level, while Scott Morrison was largely able to skate by dealing only with questions about whether we could trust the government to reach its target of 26% cuts, with no mention of the science establishing the target was pathetic.

So here we go again. We’re probably within nine months of an election and we’re about to see if scare campaigns about electric cars destroying the weekend get a pass.

For the IPCC has rather nicely shown what our future holds.

The bad news is limiting temperatures to 1.5C is very tough – we will still need to cut emissions to around net zero by 2050 and by around 45% by 2030.

The good news is even if we don’t achieve that there is still a chance of keeping temperatures below a 2C rise.

In the past I have attempted to demonstrate the path we are on by showing a trend line of the past 20 years out to 2100.

That trend is pretty much spot on with the middle of the five scenarios the IPCC charts:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

Under this median scenario (scenario 3), we will hit a 2C rise by around 2053 (although possibly as early as 2039).

Under the two “high and very high emissions” scenarios (scenarios 4 and 5), emissions double by 2100 or 2050 respectively. Under these scenarios, 2C is a memory of better times.

Under scenario 4 we hit a 3C rise by 2074, and under the worst case of scenario 5 we hit a 4C rise in the 2080s.

To give an example of what that means the IPCC notes that with a 2C rise, extreme temperature events that used to occur once in 50 years would occur 14 times every 50 years, but with a 4C rise they would occur 39 times every 50 years.

The good news is the IPPC charts two scenarios that see us remain under 2C:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

Under scenario 2, which would see emissions halve by 2050 and reach net zero by around 2075, we have a good chance of keeping temperature rises to below 2C.

Scenario 1 however is the only one that sees us any chance to remain below 1.5C – and that needs emissions to get to zero around 2050.

The problem however is we’re not on the path for either.

The latest emissions predictions released by the government in December last year show that we are well behind the path to net zero by 2050, and behind even the path of scenario 2:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

Worse still, while we are close to the scenario 2 path, after 2030 the cuts need to be much sharper to retain any hope of keeping temperatures below 2C.

And remember, even under the low emissions scenarios 1 and 2, the IPCC still estimate the likelihood of temperatures rising above 1.5C and 2C remains very likely:

Click here if you cannot view the graph

The latest IPCC report is a massive alert to everyone that the time to act is nearly gone, but crucially it is not gone yet.

We cannot however afford to have another election campaign that regards the issue as one where the science can be ignored.



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Abhi
info@thesostenible.com

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