The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

CALL IT A GOOD news/bad news re­port on cli­mate change.

The good news? The United Na­tions’ In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) re­port this week said rapid changes to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions could slow down cat­a­strophic warm­ing. That’s the good news.

The bad news? The re­port says rapid change would slow down the cat­a­strophic warm­ing.

Chances are we’re go­ing to do noth­ing, or lit­tle enough to be called noth­ing, so cat­a­strophic warm­ing is our likely fu­ture.

The re­port finds that lim­it­ing global warm­ing to 1.5°C would re­quire “rapid and far-reach­ing” tran­si­tions in land, en­ergy, in­dus­try, build­ings, trans­port, and cities. Global net hu­man-caused emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 lev­els by 2030, reach­ing ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any re­main­ing emis­sions would need to be bal­anced by re­mov­ing CO2 from the air, not just slow­ing down the in­creases.

The con­se­quences for fail­ing to do so will be deadly for many and very, very ex­pen­sive for pretty much every­body.

That re­al­ity is the im­pe­tus for the Part­ner­ing with Na­ture to Heal the Bio­sphere event next week. A project be­gun by the late Michael Purves-Smith, the ini­tia­tive was picked up by fam­ily and friends in­ter­ested in com­bat­ing cli­mate change.

Ex­pect­ing ac­tion on a wider scale, espe­cially by govern­ments of the big­gest pol­luters, is likely be­yond the pale, and the pos­si­bil­ity of dras­tic steps within the next 12 years – the 2030 dead­line iden­ti­fied in the IPCC re­port – is close enough to zero to be called zero.

That means we’ll end up deal­ing with much more ex­treme weather – droughts, floods, tor­na­does, hur­ri­canes – and the deaths, dis­place­ment and fi­nan­cial losses that comes with it.

We’re al­ready see­ing the im­pacts of the warm­est weather on record. Even in the area, where the im­pacts are ex­pected to be some­what more muted, we’re see­ing weather events more pro­nounced than in the past, along with sud­den fluc­tu­a­tions.

We’re not to con­fuse to­day’s weather with the big pic­ture of cli­mate, but ev­ery anom­aly adds to the ev­i­dence.

If cli­mate mod­els are on tar­get, we can ex­pect more ex­treme weather days ahead, even putting aside the hu­man con­tri­bu­tion to global warm­ing/cli­mate change.

Th­ese changes would sig­nif­i­cantly de­crease the du­ra­tion of the an­nual snow sea­son and lengthen the grow­ing sea­son. They could in­crease the fre­quency and sever­ity of ex­treme heat events in sum­mer.

If the mod­els hold, we can ex­pect more than just ris­ing tem­per­a­tures. Greater im­pacts could in­clude changes in pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns, in soil mois­ture, and pos­si­bly in the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of se­vere weather events.

Changes in weather pat­terns may af­fect the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of pol­lu­tion episodes.

Ad­di­tional dam­age to for­est ecosys­tems by pests and dis­eases, and in­creased fre­quency and in­ten­sity of fires may oc­cur. Species cur­rently threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion face the great­est risk of ex­tinc­tion in a chang­ing cli­mate.

On­tario falls prey to a num­ber of nat­u­ral haz­ards: drought, heat waves, floods, rain, snow and ice storms, tor­na­does, and even hur­ri­canes, although they’re rare. Small changes in av­er­age cli­mate con­di­tions are ex­pected to gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant changes in ex­treme events. Ex­perts an­tic­i­pate fewer ex­tremely cold days and more ex­tremely hot days and more se­vere thun­der­storms, which can cause in­jury and prop­erty dam­age.

While things are pro­jected to get worse, there has al­ready been an uptick in weather-re­lated dis­as­ters across the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly floods. That comes with a hu­man toll, and a large hit to the wal­let.

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