A recent report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that severe climate change consequences, such as damaging or deadly weather events, could happen sooner and at lower temperatures than previously expected. All of these problems create more issues related to international economics and food production as well.
In this post, we’ll talk about what might happen if we can’t make the necessary adjustments happen in time. Given that climate change is already fairly advanced and international policy is stacked against drastic action, is it possible to meet the temperature limit goals in time? If not, are we doomed?
Quick Summary of UN Climate Change Report
The report says that by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C, rather than 2 degrees C or more, we could avoid the most detrimental climate change repercussions.
Hans-Otto Pörtner, one IPCC report author, put it this way:
“1.5 degrees C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems.”
Containing temperature rise by just that half a degree could mean keeping sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and halting the rising sea level rise beyond 10 cm. This could spare millions of people and billions of dollars through the preservation of organisms and systems needed for life.
For more report details on why and how to turn climate change around by reducing carbon emissions, see our first blog post on the report, UN Climate Change Report Part 1 - Prevention.
Can we reverse Climate Change if we overshoot the temperature limit?
If we overshoot the temperature limit and then try to reverse the damage, we might be able to undo some, but not all, of it.
The report says that on a global scale, carbon dioxide emissions must fall by about 45 percent by 2030. In addition to this first goal, emission levels would need to reach "net zero" by 2050. Any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by actually removing carbon dioxide from the air.
If we did allow global temperatures to exceed the 1.5 degrees C, we would have to rely more heavily on technology capable of removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.
The problem is that these techniques are still in the early stages of development, and they haven’t been tested on a large scale yet. We’re at a point where supporting the progress and refining of these technologies must be a top priority.
But still, the more straightforward solution is a drastic reduction of emissions through reforestation, using more clean energy rather than burning fossil fuels, and capturing emissions with filtration devices.
Simply put, it’s less expensive, less risky, and more efficient to simply not release carbon dioxide and other destructive gasses into the atmosphere in the first place.
Halting global warming requires immediate action in changing how we generate energy, use transportation, and construct cities.
Jim Skea, another IPCC author, sums up the outlook this way: “Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”
How you can fight climate change with impact investing
By investing in your future at Swell, you’re also investing in a brighter future for the entire planet. You can be a part of those “unprecedented changes” needed to turn the path of humankind around on a dime. Here are some of the companies in our renewable energy portfolio who are changing the way we produce energy to preserve our way of life.
AES is a leader in solar PV technology. They’re not only innovating with solar, wind and hydropower, but they’re also finding ways to tie it all together by focusing on the grid as a whole. They provide clean energy storage to commercial facilities, reducing the massive emissions caused by these large businesses. Taking things even further, they’re currently upgrading U.S. coal plants and working to repower several to run on gas.
In our green tech portfolio, FMC Corp is developing and implementing systems to strengthen crop resistance in stressed environmental conditions. This is already essential, with millions living in poverty and with drought. If we do surpass the safety limit threshold for temperature, these innovations will be a lifeline for food production.