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October 09, 2018 - The Vegan Authority


Is Planet Earth Dying?

Is Planet Earth Dying?
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The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, reports that climate change is happening faster than predicted. Instead of decades we now only have a few precious years to alter course and avoid catastrophe. Earth is now 1°C hotter than the pre-industrial period. Another 1° increase will result in dangerous climatic conditions and dramatic ecological changes, perhaps for decades, perhaps forever, or possibly may trigger a death spiral until life on Earth is snubbed out.

According to the IPCC "Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) needs to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching 'net zero' around 2050".

To achieve this goal, action would be needed across the board starting with dramatic new policies by governments around the globe. Without policy and enforcement nothing will happen, particularly in the private sector.

In normal times, inter-governmental policy and cooperation might be a predicable outcome. But in the Trump era, who's administration has already neutered the EPA, populism and anti-science is growing in other nation states and they are equally uninterested --or unconvinced-- climate change is real or a priority.

Even if nations prioritize climate change and work together, massive societal and infrastructure changes would be needed. Emissions would need to decline rapidly across all of society’s main sectors, including buildings, industry, transport, energy, agriculture, forestry and other land use. Actions that can reduce emissions include, for example, phasing out coal in the energy sector, increasing the amount of energy produced from renewable sources, electrifying transport, and reducing the carbon footprint of the food we consume.

Can CO2 emissions be cut 45% by 2030? This is uncertain and, given the current trend, seems unlikely.

What happens in 2030 when we reach 1.5°C and beyond?

Basically the IPCC predicts bad environmental things once the atmosphere becomes 0.5°C warmer than today but believes this is manageable. However they determine that a total rise of ~1°C, which seems unavoidable due to world politics, will have catastrophic consequences, including:

  • Sea levels will rise too fast for low lying communities to adapt to increased saltwater intrusion, causing flooding and damage to infrastructure
  • The likelihood of irreversible disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets
  • The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems
  • Coral, an important ecosystem, will disappear
  • The number of hot days is projected to increase in most land regions, with highest increases in the tropics
  • Droughts and heavy precipitation events are projected to be higher
  • 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates are projected to lose over half of their climatically determined geographic range
  • Increased risk of forest fires, droughts and the spread of invasive species
  • The ecosystem of approximately 13% of the global land area is projected to undergo significant changes
  • Ocean acidity will increase and ocean oxygen levels decrease, broadly affecting marine biodiversity and impacting the growth, development, survival, and abundance of a broad range of species, from algae to fish
  • Reductions in projected food availability in the Sahel, southern Africa, the Mediterranean, central Europe, and the Amazon
  • Diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are projected to increase and expand in their geographic range
  • There will be smaller harvests of maize, rice, wheat, and other cereal crops, particularly in sub Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

Is it reversible?

The IPCC report provides a few narrow outcomes for the planet by year 2100, but predetermines the people of earth can contain the globe's temperature to just 1.5°C warmer than the pre-industrial level. The report does not predict an outcome beyond the 2.0°C threshold. But when examining the temperature trend-line, straight up without deviation, and considering that everything said in the dense 5 chapter IPCC report called for doubling the effort compared with the recent 2015 Paris Accord guidelines, a picture emerges. A grim one. Furthermore, to achieve these climate change goals, 2.4 trillion USD will need to be spent every year from hereon in forward to make this happen. But this level of expenditure seems doubtful with anti-science, populist governments opting out of involvement and a global economy that is slowing, possibly slipping into recession. 

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said on Monday in Geneva that there was "extreme urgency" needed on the part of Paris Agreement signatories, and "so far the progress hasn't been good enough" to keep temperature rises below even 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted that it is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the report. "But it will require unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas. There is no time to waste."

Until the money is deployed and the temperature trend-line alters its ballistic course, planet Earth is in existential jeopardy, and may die --with us included--- faster than anyone ever imagined.

You can read the entire IPCC report here.


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