What Do We Know About the Climate Emergency?

There have been many scientific studies during the last 50 years on the impact of burning fossil fuels. Some of the first studies were within the coal and oil companies (some examples). They predicted global warming and catastrophic impact. The companies and our government chose to hide these reports and pay people to deny any reports that were publicly available.

It is important to understand that science is a process of humility with open review by peers. We should not trust any reports that are not peer reviewed by reputable scientists. A person with a degree in science can write anything and some are being paid to do this.

There have been many peer reviewed scientific reports predicting severe impact if we continue to burn fossil fuels. At this moment, most people trying to inform the public, like Greta Thunberg and Roger Hallam, refer to the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C published in the fall of 2018. Because this report is from the United Nations, heavily impacted by the governments supporting the fossil fuel industry, it underestimates the crisis. In fact, I have include an excerpt from IPCC SR15 stating the underestimates of IPCC AR5 based on observations during the subsequent 4 years. We should understand that this report underestimates the impact but it is useful to refer to this report because even though it has the best possible spin from the fossil fuel industries, it shows that we are rapidly heading to catastrophe.

As an example of the limitations of the IPCC reports, there is no mention of the use of fossil fuels in the military sector. We can not avoid climate catastrophe without dealing with the military use of fossil fuels. Any serious planning must deal with this issue. How do we protect ourselves from violence while not killing ourselves with climate change?

This IPCC SR15 is a special report between the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) released 2013-2014 and the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR5) due to be released 2022. This special report was requested because the 2°C target of the IPCC AR5 causes severe impact for many countries. They need a lower target.

The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C can be downloaded (download IPCC SR15). This report is 630 pages. A few excerpts are below:


IPCC, 2018: Global Warming of 1.5°C.

An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

Foreword

This IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was formally approved by the world’s governments in 2018 – the year of IPCC’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

During its three decades of existence, the IPCC has shed light on climate change, contributing to the understanding of its causes and consequences and the options for risk management through adaptation and mitigation. In these three decades, global warming has continued unabated and we have witnessed an acceleration in sea- level rise. Emissions of greenhouse gases due to human activities, the root cause of global warming, continue to increase, year after year.

Five years ago, the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report provided the scientific input into the Paris Agreement, which aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Many countries considered that a level of global warming close to 2°C would not be safe and, at that time, there was only limited knowledge about the implications of a level of 1.5°C of warming for climate-related risks and in terms of the scale of mitigation ambition and its feasibility. Parties to the Paris Agreement therefore invited the IPCC to assess the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and the related emissions pathways that would achieve this enhanced global ambition.

At the start of the Sixth Assessment cycle, governments, in a plenary IPCC session, decided to prepare three special reports, including this one, and expanded the scope of this special report by framing the assessment in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Sustainable development goals provide a new framework to consider climate action within the multiple dimensions of sustainability. This report is innovative in multiple ways. It shows the importance of integration across the traditional IPCC working groups and across disciplines within each chapter. Transitions, integrating adaptation and mitigation for each sector, are explored within six dimensions of feasibility, showing both low hanging fruits and barriers to overcome. It also provides scientific guidance on strategies to embed climate action within development strategies, and how to optimize choices that maximize benefits for multiple sustainable development dimensions and implement ethical and just transitions.

“Climate change is moving faster than we are,” said Secretary-General Guterres. “We must listen to the Earth’s best scientists,” he added.

In his address to the UN General Assembly in 2018, Secretary-General António Guterres quoted World Meteorological Organization (WMO) data showing that the past two decades have included eighteen of the twenty warmest years since record-keeping began in 1850.

“Climate change is moving faster than we are,” said Secretary-General Guterres. “We must listen to the Earth’s best scientists,” he added.

One month later the IPCC presented the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, based on the assessment of around 6,000 peer-review publications, most of them published in the last few years. This Special Report confirms that climate change is already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods all around the world. It shows that limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society. It finds that there are clear benefits to keeping warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C or higher. Every bit of warming matters. And it shows that limiting warming to 1.5°C can go hand in hand with achieving other global goals such as the Sustainable Development Agenda. Every year matters and every choice matters.

Without increased and urgent mitigation ambition in the coming years, leading to a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, global warming will surpass 1.5°C in the following decades, leading to irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies.

This Special Report also shows that recent trends in emissions and the level of international ambition indicated by nationally determined contributions, within the Paris Agreement, deviate from a track consistent with limiting warming to well below 2°C. Without increased and urgent mitigation ambition in the coming years, leading to a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, global warming will surpass 1.5°C in the following decades, leading to irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies.

The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C supports efforts by the WMO and United Nations Environment Programme for a comprehensive assessment of our understanding of climate change to help step up action to respond to climate change, achieve climate-resilient development and foster an integrated approach to the provision of climate services at all scales of governance.

Every bit of warming matters, every year matters, every choice matters.

The IPCC worked in record time to deliver this report for the 24 th Conference of Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Talanoa Dialogue. We would like to thank Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, for his leadership and guidance in the preparation of this Special Report. We commend the work undertaken by the authors of this Special Report and the many contributing authors and reviewers within a timeline of unprecedented severity; the leadership of the Co-Chairs of Working Groups I, II and III: Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Panmao Zhai, Hans-Otto Pörtner, Debra Roberts, Jim Skea and Priyadarshi R. Shukla; the oversight by the Bureau members of Working Groups I, II and III; and the implementation by the Technical Support Unit of Working Group I, supported by the Technical Support Units of Working Groups II and III. We are also grateful for the responsiveness of the international research community, who produced the knowledge assessed in the report, and thank the reviewers of the report for the thousands of comments that helped the authors strengthen the assessment.

Every bit of warming matters, every year matters, every choice matters.


[page 181]

Increased Reasons for Concern


There are multiple lines of evidence that since AR5 the assessed levels of risk increased for four of the five Reasons for Concern (RFCs) for global warming levels of up to 2°C (high confidence). The risk transitions by degrees of global warming are now: from high to very high between 1.5°C and 2°C for RFC1 (Unique and threatened systems) (high confidence); from moderate to high risk between 1°C and 1.5°C for RFC2 (Extreme weather events) (medium confidence); from moderate to high risk between 1.5°C and 2°C for RFC3 (Distribution of impacts) (high confidence); from moderate to high risk between 1.5°C and 2.5°C for RFC4 (Global aggregate impacts) (medium confidence); and from moderate to high risk between 1°C and 2.5°C for RFC5 (Large-scale singular events) (medium confidence). {3.5.2}

  1. The category ‘Unique and threatened systems’ (RFC1) display a transition from high to very high risk which is now located between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming as opposed to at 2.6°C of global warming in AR5, owing to new and multiple lines of evidence for changing risks for coral reefs, the Arctic and biodiversity in general (high confidence). {3.5.2.1}
  2. In ‘Extreme weather events’ (RFC2), the transition from moderate to high risk is now located between 1.0°C and 1.5°C of global warming, which is very similar to the AR5 assessment but is projected with greater confidence (medium confidence). The impact literature contains little information about the potential for human society to adapt to extreme weather events, and hence it has not been possible to locate the transition from ‘high’ to ‘very high’ risk within the context of assessing impacts at 1.5°C versus 2°C of global warming. There is thus low confidence in the level at which global warming could lead to very high risks associated with extreme weather events in the context of this report. {3.5}
  3. With respect to the ‘Distribution of impacts’ (RFC3) a transition from moderate to high risk is now located between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming, compared with between 1.6°C and 2.6°C global warming in AR5, owing to new evidence about regionally differentiated risks to food security, water resources, drought, heat exposure and coastal submergence (high confidence). {3.5}
  4. In ‘global aggregate impacts’ (RFC4) a transition from moderate to high levels of risk is now located between 1.5°C and 2.5°C of global warming, as opposed to at 3.6°C of warming in AR5, owing to new evidence about global aggregate economic impacts and risks to Earth’s biodiversity (medium confidence). {3.5}
  5. Finally, ‘large-scale singular events’ (RFC5), moderate risk is now located at 1°C of global warming and high risk is located at 2.5°C of global warming, as opposed to at 1.6°C (moderate risk) and around 4°C (high risk) in AR5, because of new observations and models of the West Antarctic ice sheet (medium confidence). {3.3.9, 3.5.2, 3.6.3}