How much a dif­fer­ence of 0.5 Centi­grade would make to us all

The Borneo Post - - NATURE - By Alan Rogers colum­nists@the­bor­neo­

A MOST dis­turb­ing re­port was pub­lished in early Oc­to­ber af­ter a meet­ing of the United Na­tions In­ter-gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) in In­cheon, South Korea.

The news from this spe­cial re­port — Global Warm­ing of 1.5°C – above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els — cer­tainly strength­ens an im­me­di­ate global re­sponse to cli­mate change, sug­gest­ing we should be aim­ing at greater ef­forts to al­le­vi­ate poverty through all na­tions seek­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

This UN panel’s re­port was writ­ten by 91 sci­en­tists from 40 coun­tries and is based on over 60,000 rep­utable sci­en­tific re­ports and their find­ings.

The panel’s task was to re­con­sider the Paris Agree­ment of 2015, when 195 na­tions pledged, as a col­lec­tive force, to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions in or­der to keep the mean world tem­per­a­ture in­crease be­low 2°C.

This re­port bluntly states that “we are al­ready see­ing the con­se­quences of a 1°C of global warm­ing through ex­treme weather, ris­ing sea lev­els and di­min­ish­ing ice.”

Ecosys­tems are be­ing de­stroyed and there are in­creased prospects of famine.

Whilst some of the ac­tions are un­der­way to limit global warm­ing, they need to be ac­cel­er­ated.

Ex­treme weather con­di­tions, drought-stricken ar­eas, flood dis­as­ters, more force­ful hur­ri­canes, ty­phoons and cy­clones have played havoc across the globe in only 10 months of just this very year!

Such events can no longer be seen as “Acts of God.”

The blame must be firmly dumped on mankind’s doorstep, es­pe­cially as, in 2017, only last year, global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions rose by an­other 1.6 per cent.

What would a 0.5°C re­duc­tion in mean world tem­per­a­tures from the 2015 aim of 2°C mean to our world?

To achieve this aim of a 0.5°C re­duc­tion, global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions alone must al­most halve by 2030 – only 12 years away – to avoid a cat­a­strophic loss of co­ral reefs, ice caps, and in­tense floods and droughts.

In­creas­ing global tem­per­a­tures, we al­ready know, lead to in­creased evap­o­ra­tion rates, more pow­er­ful and fre­quent thun­der­storms and thus more in­ten­sive rain­fall, which, alas, no longer oc­cur, in places of our world where it is most needed to prevent lo­cal famine.

The wet monsoons are up the spout and no longer pre­dictable, thus rice yields have fallen in Asian coun­tries! Add to this equa­tion the con­tin­ual heat­ing of our oceans and the grad­ual rise in sea lev­els.

This year alone, drought con­di­tions have been deadly in some ar­eas, with ram­pant for­est and moor­land fires in oth­ers, even in tem­per­ate parts of the world!

Wheat, bar­ley and cat­tle farm­ers in both Aus­tralia and Eu­rope have been severely hit by pro­longed drought. In Bri­tain, cat­tle and grain farm­ers have suf­fered badly from an in­tense heat­wave this sum­mer which ne­ces­si­tated har­vest­ing dried and less pro­duc­tive crops ear­lier than usual.

Mown grasses, stored nor­mally for win­ter live­stock-feed, are be­ing fed to cat­tle now in the au­tumn. Al­ready veg­etable and meat prices are in­creas­ing in super­mar­kets and soon the price of British brewed beer will es­ca­late as bar­ley yields have been low.

This, I has­ten to add, has noth­ing to do with Brexit. How­ever, British vine­yards are record­ing record yields! The sim­ple facts If global mean tem­per­a­ture rises were to be main­tained at 2°C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els of 1752, we would lose more than 99 per cent of co­ral reefs.

Arc­tic and Green­land ice would dis­ap­pear and Antarc­tic ice would be­come in­creas­ingly thin­ner.

Arc­tic ice would dis­ap­pear one sum­mer in ten. Sea lev­els would rise by 87 cen­time­tres, thus wip­ing out many is­land and coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

The nat­u­ral world of fauna and flora would not es­cape. Of 105,000 species stud­ied, 18 per cent of in­sects, 16 per cent of plants and eight per cent of ver­te­brates would lose over 50 per cent of their cli­mat­i­cally de­ter­mined geo­graphic range.

Maize, wheat and rice yields will de­crease, thus af­fect­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple world­wide, lead­ing to in­creas­ing poverty.

Com­pare the above per­ceived statis­tics with a low­er­ing of 0.5°C to a global warm­ing of 1.5°C to be achieved by 2030 and to be main­tained there­after.

Co­ral reef de­cline would con­tinue but drop to an av­er­age loss of 80 per cent, sea lev­els would rise by 77 cen­time­tres, and the Arc­tic ice loss would be re­duced to one sum­mer in 100.

This seem­ingly, but all im­por­tant, small fall in tem­per­a­ture would re­sult in a re­duc­tion of habi­tat for six per­cent of in­sects, eight per­cent of plants and four per cent of ver­te­brates.

Our oceans would ben­e­fit from less acid­ity and in­creases in oxy­gen and tem­per­a­tures. This, in turn, would re­duce risks to ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity, fish­eries, and ecosys­tems.

Even a 10 cen­time­tre rise in sea level by 2030 would al­low gov­ern­ments just 12 years to plan for changes in the life­style for coastal com­mu­ni­ties and those oc­cu­py­ing river delta lands and small is­lands.

Emer­gency evac­u­a­tion plans should be dis­trib­uted to all house­holds.

We, as hu­mans, are vic­tims of our own so called suc­cess.

The IPCC re­port of Oct 2018 avoids the fact that our avarice has led to this predica­ment, start­ing in the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion of 1752.

We have, over two and half cen­turies, plun­dered planet Earth to in­crease our wealth as na­tions and still con­tinue to do so de­spite global cli­mate change warn­ings.

Most ma­chines in 1752 were driven by coal power, to be re­placed by coal-fired and later oil-and gas-pow­ered elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing sta­tions.

To­day, the IPCC tell us that the pro­por­tion of global elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated in coal pow­ered­sta­tions would have to de­cline from to­day’s fig­ure of 40 per cent to zero by 2050 to limit global warm­ing to a 1.5°C in­crease.

Sim­i­larly, gas-fired elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion would need to fall from 23 per cent to eight per cent in the same time scale.

What does this tell us? My thoughts merely drift into Jules Verne’s for­ward-look­ing writ­ings of the 19th cen­tury.

We can­not do with­out elec­tric­ity in our homes wher­ever we live or work.

Those coun­tries ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity by al­ter­na­tive meth­ods to burn­ing coal, gas and oil should ex­plore other meth­ods of elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion to be piped into the na­tional grids and ex­ported by un­der­sea ca­bles to those na­tions who have lit­tle or no means of elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion.

China has plans to tap so­lar power from a space satel­lite to fuel the needs of a ma­jor city. So­lar, wind, hy­dro, tidal and nu­clear pow­ered elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing schemes can all as­sist in keep­ing a na­tion’s car­bon diox­ide emis­sions to a min­i­mum.

It is not be­yond our wit, with 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy, to achieve this, if we are to see a world­wide fall of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by 45 per cent from their 2010 lev­els in only 12 years’ time. On re­flec­tion Whilst read­ers may view my ap­proach as seem­ing some­what “doom and gloom”, I have only re­ported the facts that should hurt us all.

There is hope in this IPCC re­port that we can lower our planet’s mean global tem­per­a­tures by 0.5°C by 2030.

The late Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor Stephen Hawk­ing’s words, be­fore he died ear­lier this year, spring read­ily to mind: “We can­not look in­wards on our­selves on such a small and pol­luted and over­crowded planet. Through sci­en­tific en­deav­our, we must look out­wards at the wider uni­verse while striv­ing to fix the prob­lems on Earth.”

Wiser words I have yet to hear. Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble, for where there is a will there is a way.

Gaseous emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide caused by coal burn­ing power sta­tions.

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