A leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) upcoming report on keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (oC) gives hope that the target is attainable, but only if urgent action is taken immediately.
With global average temperatures just 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, floods, droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather events are becoming considerably more destructive and deadly. The leaked draft report is encouraging by saying that warming can be held below 1.5oC, avoiding serious environmental and social impacts, but to do so, we need to act decisively, and we need to act now.
The European Union needs to strengthen its climate targets to make them consistent with keeping warming below 1.5oC. In the 2015 climate talks in Paris, the EU lent its support to the vulnerable countries that argued that the existing 2oC ceiling would expose them to sea-level rise, extreme weather, and profound economic disruption.
Europe’s Call to Action
In working towards a 1.5 oC world, Europe has a moral obligation to help protect the world’s most vulnerable people, as it promised to do in Paris. To meet the 1.5oC ceiling will require global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to fall to net zero by 2050. For all greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, net zero needs to be reached by 2060-2070. Additionally, it will be necessary to remove substantial amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation, agricultural soil carbon enhancement and other techniques.
The Technology is Available
The technological solutions needed – zero-emissions energy production, electric vehicles, climate-smart agricultural techniques, carbon capture and storage – are available and becoming increasingly cost competitive.
All that is needed to enable their widespread uptake is the political will to provide the necessary regulatory support and, in some cases, minimal financial assistance.
We can avoid catastrophe, but action is needed now.