What to take away from the recent IPCC report

Our town of Concord has recently commissioned the Climate Action Advisory Board, a volunteer committee charged with advising the Town on issues of greenhouse gas reduction and improving climate resilience. We appreciate the Town taking these issues seriously, and residents willing to devote much of their time on this.   We encourage the CAAB to think big and look at creative solutions for tackling these challenges, since now is the best time to move forward on this.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C (2.7° F) above pre-industrial levels (we currently are 1° C higher) in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change.  The report investigates the difference between 1.5° and 2°  C on the effects on the world, and (believe-it-or-not) the effects would be a great deal worse at the higher temperature.  While concerns about climate change are not new, the potential impacts are becoming better and better understood, improving our understanding of the mess that we are in.  One might ask, is it relevant to consider 1.5° vs 2.0° when the current state of affairs suggests we may be in for 3° or 4° C rise?  While the Paris Accord was a relatively small step towards capping the rise to 2° C, the Federal government has abandoned this agreement and actively walks the other direction.

Climate does change naturally, but those changes are slow enough that they can only be measured over several decades, so normally it makes sense to consider climate in a 50 year time frame.  The changes happening now are so much faster than this, and an additional 1° C temperature rise is expected to occur in the next 50 years.  Note these temperature values are global averages: the changes over land which happen here will be twice as high as this, with the accompanying effects on the biosphere, sea level, agriculture and weather patterns. The report considered the ethical issues of society allowing this to happen, as well as burden sharing between countries of different economic means

Finally, and most significantly, the report considers strategies to cap global temperature rise to 1.5° C, including renewable electricity generation, and replacing fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and other energy uses.  These need to take place in less than 50 years, more like 10-20 years max. It is vital not to lose sight of the fact that solutions exist and it is a matter of choosing to adopt them as soon as possible.  Delaying action reduces the likelihood of the existence of a hospitable planet during our children’s lifetime.  Individually, and collectively, we can take a pathway to the 1.5° C future, or one to a much hotter place.  Our choice to make.

Submitted to Concord Journal, 11/18

Concord Sustainability and Energy Committee

Posted in environment.