United States is Morally Obligated to Reduce the Growing Threat of Global Climate Change
The world’s top climate panel has issued its direst appeal to date on the need to stop global warming. In a new report, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says continued emissions of greenhouse gases “will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” Unveiling the findings, panel chair Rajendra Pachauri said the window for action is closing.
Rajendra Pachauri: “Now, as it happens, the window of action is really closing very rapidly, so we have a very short window of opportunity. If you look at the total carbon budget to ensure that temperature increase by the end of this century will not exceed two degrees Celsius, we’ve already used up a substantial share of this. What’s remaining for us is only 275 gigatons of carbon. So this clearly shows that we have a very limited window of opportunity, and I think the global community must look at these numbers and show the resolve by which we can bring about change.”
The U.N. panel on climate change is not mincing words. The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of the current situation has no real surprises considering it is essentially a summary of previous reports. What it does have is some stark language that warns time is running out. The IPCC report amounts to a “final warning” about the dangers of failing to act on climate change, notes the Independent.
At this point, action has to mean cutting greenhouse gas emmissions to zero by 2100, a goal that, for now at least, seems far-fetched. Unless there is an unprecedented effort to cut emissions, then the planet is clearly headed toward “irreversible” changes to the climate. But even if emissions are cut to zero, some of the effects of climate change “will continue for centuries.” The Washington Post explains what’s at stake:
The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.
“The window of opportunity for acting in a cost-effective way—or in an effective way—is closing fast,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University geosciences professor and contributing author to the report.
To keep global warming below the target level of two degrees Celsius, the U.N. climate panel says the world must keep fossil fuel emissions to around one trillion tons of carbon dioxide. At current emissions rates, that amount will be reached in just 30 years, maybe even less. Less than $400 billion a year is being spent to reduce emissions or adapt to climate change. By contrast, energy corporations are spending over $600 billion to find new sources of CO2 extraction, and governments are spending that same amount on subsidizing fossil fuel consumption. The IPCC’s report is its fifth and final assessment on climate change ahead of global negotiations in Paris next year.
The 40-page report that summarizes 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists claims the effects of global warming are already evident. “Climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” notes the IPCC. The debate about climate change should be closed. The hundreds of authors that were involved in the study are “even more certain than before that the planet is warming and humans are the cause,” notes CNN. That was the message U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wanted to get across: “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side.” Secretary of State John Kerry characterized the report as “another canary in the coal mine” that shows why “ambitious decisive and immediate action” is needed.
Hear “Who’s Gonna Stand Up (and Save the Earth)”, by Neil Young. The “who” he’s talking about is all of us, and there’s no time like the present for us all to minimize doing thing that burn fossil fuels for energy.