1.5 to Stay Alive

smoke stack

In October of 2018, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report compiled and reviewed by, collectively, thousands of climate scientists from all over the globe.

What is the IPCC? It’s a panel assembled by the United Nations (UN), put together to distill knowledge from every branch of science related to climate and climate change. There is no political party or agenda behind its publication. It’s just putting info out there.

There’s a lot to take in, but the big headline is that we must keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels) to avoid mass destruction. Here are digestible takeaways I got from this summary:

  • First of all: we’re already at 1 degree C of warming since the industrial revolution. Yes fellow math wizards, that gives us 0.5 degrees to go.
  • Even if we shut off all climate-warming production today (gas, goal, methane from cows, et cetera), the world would still get hotter for a while as existing pollution continues to trap heat.
  • 1.5 is bad, but we can live with its effects. 2 degrees gets into a whole ‘nother ballpark: massive ice sheet melting and sea level rise that effects many more millions of “climate refugees,” as well as wiping out untold species on land and sea. (Side note: the Paris Agreement is weaker than you think, and would leave us at 3 degrees of warming by 2100.)
  • Since we’re already closing in on 1.5 degrees, the critical window requires cutting emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100% by 2050. But after 2030 is really when the domino effect of climate catastrophes will begin if nothing is done.
  • Sticking to “only” 1.5 degrees also requires massive removal of carbon from the atmosphere (carbon capture/sequestration). Also… this isn’t actually possible yet.

A key passage in the IPCC report explains how we gon’ do all dis:

“Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems.”

You know what? That is actually kind of exciting. It gets all my WWII nostalgia cranking. Back then, the U.S. transformed in a few short years, out of the Great Depression and into incredible innovation. They sacrificed like crazy and worked together toward a common goal.

There ARE solutions, and I’ll get to them as the series goes on.

Cover photo: Zimmer Power Plant Smoke Stack, by joelbeeb

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