The United Nation (UN) has released a strong and urgent warning: The world only has 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. And God willing, I will only be 72 by then. My first grandson will only be 12. So, the warning is very personal to me, as it should be to you.
This warning came from the world’s leading climate scientists with the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a result of years of research from the 6,000 scientific studies assessed. The goal of the study was to gather all available scientific literature and make recommendations to help governments in their effort to combat climate change as well as support economic development.
According to the study, the world only has a dozen of years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 °C and going beyond even by half a degree will mean worsening the risks of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for all of us.
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” Panmao Zhai, one of the Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group said.
The report stresses that many climate change impacts can be avoided if the world’s global warming is limited to 1.5°C instead of 2°C as committed in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
For example, the global sea level rise is likely to be 10 cm lower by 2100 if global warming is 1.5°C instead of 2°C. Similarly, around 99 percent of coral reefs would be lost with 2°C while only 70 to 90 percent decline at 1.5°C. Plus, at 2C, the Arctic will be iceless during summer at least once per decade instead of once per century.
The impact on the world will be significant especially for the already vulnerable countries if global warming is not limited to the recommended temperature. The rise of the sea level will force hundreds of millions out of their homes while crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America will enormously diminish.
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the co-chairs of the IPCC Working Group pointed out.
This is a gloomy warning and the most urgent call for drastic changes that are based on the most comprehensive data analysis.
There is still hope, according to the scientists, but swift actions must be made.
“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the co-chairs of the study stressed.
Drastic steps needed include lowering the global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide carbon dioxide (CO2), which would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from the 2010 levels. By 2050, it should be around ‘net zero’.
So, what do we need to do to cut our CO2?
The study says, one of the ways of cutting CO2 emissions swiftly is to lessen our fossil fuel consumption, the primary producer of greenhouse gasses. Renewable energy sources should dominate the energy mix at 85 percent share of power needs by 2050 if we are to limit our CO2 emissions.
This is not the first time that we have been warned about the harm of failing to act swiftly on global warming. There have been a lot in the last few years except this warning from the UN is based on the most comprehensive study of scientific data.
Indeed, the time to act fast is now. And we can start in our backyard. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change according to Moody’s. And it does not help that we are not doing much to help the world reduce its CO2 emissions.
The Philippines can heed the call to cut down on greenhouse emissions by diversifying more into renewable energy. We are after all blessed with natural resources to make a transition. It is the lack of political will that prevents us from doing so.
We only need to take a look at how slow the country’s transition to cleaner forms of energy. Our numbers do not show much improvement. For example, on a year-on-year growth, the Philippines coal import volume increased by 16% from 2015 to 2016 and the growth of installed capacities of coal-fired plants climbed by 87% from 2005 to 2016. There’s another 10,423 MW is in the pipeline.
May this warning from scientists serve as a wake-up call to all of us, particularly those who are in charge of making the shift to clean energy possible. Our government only needs to keep in mind that failure to act now is not helping the Filipinos and the rest of the world.
Press Relese: Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments