After over 40 years of clear signs that we are damaging the Earth beyond what could even be considered natural, with a sober assessment carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has listed out situation as, according to the UN Secretary-General, “a code red for humanity”.
The report was created ahead of the upcoming Cop26 climate summit, and is the first major study of the effects climate change since 2013, and its assessment is bleaker than previously imagined.
This landmark review warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and breaking temperature records. With Greece, Russia, the United States, Canada and other major areas currently burning (and recently even in Malta), the entire west coast of the US experiencing a drought unlike anything experienced before, and the recent floods throughout Germany and other northern Europe countries, it leaves us little doubt that these are not only occurring, but are getting even worse.
The report also states that in 10 years, we will be looking at temperatures rising by 1.5°C, the temperature rise the famous 2015 Paris Agreement stipulated that worldwide governments would stop the world from getting to.
To stop this increase, we would need cut emissions by around 17% a year, every year, for a decade. Which let’s be honest, will never happen.
What’s 1.5°C? I can barely feel the difference when it’s 3°C hotter!
Well, 1.5°C is the difference between our current, already quite dire situation, and multiple interrelated climate risks for the more “vulnerable regions, including small islands and Least Developed countries.”
1.5°C means a global approximate of 1.1 months of heatwaves, reduction of freshwater by 9%, increased heavy deadly rainfalls, global production drops of crucial crops such as wheat and maize, the death of most reefs worldwide, and 2-5m sea level rise.
On the last note, this is what 2m and 5m sea level rise looks like in the Greater London/Thames area, Egypt/Nile area and in the largest islands of the Maldives, the lowest country in the world (which as you can see, will probably no longer exist).
The sea level will “remain elevated for thousands of years”, thanks to the warming ocean and melting ice sheets.
It is not too late, although the amount of time left that statement would still be valid is rapidly running out thanks to humanities’ ability to produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than worst case scenarios listed 20 years ago suggested that we’d be able to produce.
“Strong and sustained reductions” of greenhouse gases through worldwide action (especially methane) would give the planet some extra time.
Extreme weather events that were previously seen once every hundred years will become a yearly occurrence with the new climate situation.
The report states that the previously set deadline before we begin to truly feel the consequences to current actions of 2050 is more likely to start occurring as early as late 2030s to mid 2040s.
By the end of this century, the global temperature could be as high as 3.3°C of the current normal. For a local perspective, this will create a desertification effect both in Malta and the entirety of southern Europe, as the high temperature on the African continent moved upwards. Temperatures as high as 45°C – 50°C will be the norm in summer and our lifestyle will have to change forever. Coming to Malta for a vacation would be the same as going on a holiday at the Aral Sea.
What can I personally do?
Nothing significant at this stage, other than joining the cry for governments and companies to change their ways. Despite the Paris Agreement, no government is making a serious effort to drop their emissions in the extreme ways required. Fossil fuel infrastructure is not shrinking, its actively growing. New coal-powered power plants are being built willy-nilly. And in some countries, especially the United States (mainly due to Trump), and Brazil, are not only doing too little, but they are actively going in the other direction and reducing attempts at making renewable energy more widespread in their country.
This report is yet another massive warning for what humanity has coming for it. We have very little time left before all our actions come tumbling down on us and future generations. It is by the actions that we take now that we might have a slim hope of the facing lighter consequences in the near future.
Written by: Nathan Portelli