LESS MEAT, AND PARK THE CAR
We – humanity – have 12 years to change our lifestyle in unprecedented ways if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change – and changes include eating less meat and abandoning our cars. So says the United Nations’ recently-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which warns that 2030 is the point-of-no-return for us to adopt changes that will help to avoid a plague of droughts, heavy flooding, extreme heat and poverty.
On our current trajectory, says the 400-page report, earth is likely to warm by 3°C. We need to cut that to around 1.5°C – as outlined in the Paris Agreement earlier this year.
Scientists believe the effects of climate change – and these effects include droughts on one end of the spectrum to rising seas on the other – will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Greenhouse gas emissions were stable prior to the Industrial Revolution – the climate has warmed by 1°C since the mid-1800s.
Some 6,000 scientific works were referenced in the IPCC report, and its specific recommendations include:
• Global CO² emissions must fall 45% by 2030
• The use of coal needs to decline from 38% to nearly zero by 2050. This will require shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power stations
• Renewables should provide 85% of global electricity by 2050
• We need to change our diet: eating meat creates more CO² than vegetables
• The planet needs major reforestation to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere
• We’ll have to start storing carbon underground, a process called BECCS (bioenergy and carbon capture and storage)
Apart from the inconvenience, says the IPCC report, these changes will come with a cost: limiting global warming to 1.5°C has an annual price tag of around $3.6 trillion over the next two decades.
Says Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation: “We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping [temperature rises] to 1.5°C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that. We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”