I’m still reeling from the UN draft report on climate change. It summarizes earlier reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. Reportedly, it is much more blunt. That was Justin Gillis’s assessment in The New York Times last week. His lead: “Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts’ over the coming decades…”
Much of what we’ve been seeing–rising sea levels, killer heat waves and other extreme weather, reduced crop production–is expected to get much worse, absent strong and direct steps to greatly slow the emission of greenhouse gases. Given the woeful lack of political will in addressing the greatest threat humans have ever faced, we can probably expect to see considerable worsening of the climate, which will include the loss of vast ice sheets in Greenland, along with the ongoing ice melt at both poles. What could the loss of Greenland’s ice sheets alone mean? A 23 foot rise in sea level that would inevitably flood the world’s seaports and the homes of much of earth’s population, which is disproportionately located near coastlines.
Most chilling is this quote from the report: “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.” Almost as daunting was that reserves of fossil fuels are “at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level,” as Gillis wrote. Daunting because not using those fuels, which are extraordinarily valuable, will require great restraint on the part of countries that have shown little of it in their pursuit of short-term wealth. If it’s true that the best predictor of future behavior is past performance, we’re in for a hard ride with climate change, which has already begun to alter conditions on the planet in unprecedented ways.
Here’s the link to the Times report, which goes into much more depth: