Yesterday the IPCC Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report was published. That’s right, the sixth. The seventh will not be published until after 2030. Scanning today’s papers in the UK, only The Times carries the IPCC report on its front page, and it is not the lead. The UK’s papers are leading on problems in the Metropolitan Police, the trial of Boris Johnson and Britain’s crumbling roads.
Climate Change is no longer news; dire warnings have become normalised, too many of us yawn and turn the page. The boiling frog story is a well-known myth asserting that a frog dropped into boiling water will immediately jump out, while a frog slowly warmed and then boiled will not. Neither part of the myth is factually correct. But as a metaphor, it carries a profound truth, creeping normality can be deadly. Climate change has become creeping normality. There are now very few deniers. We know it is happening, but we confidently assume that either others or technology will solve the problem.
As Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, pointed out yesterday, we are”Out of time, but not out of options. We are in the critical decade, “we have to do more on climate change now.” Every year, we have delayed taking the necessary action. We need to do more, faster each year. Now we need to fund both adaption and mitigation. As Stiell points out IPCC report makes clear what we need to do:
“Global emissions need to be reduced by nearly 43% by 2030 for the world to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
As the Secretary-General of the UN reminded us yesterday, the IPCC report on climate change is a “survival guide for humanity”. As the IPCC report makes clear, with a very high confidence level: “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all … The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”
I wrote here about the “doom loop” three weeks ago, by delaying action on emissions, we have made the crisis significantly worse. Not only is it a bigger crisis, we need to deliver more decarbonisation faster. We need to do more in ever shorter periods of time. Delay increases the financial cost, and it costs lives and livelihoods. Sanderson and O’Neil in a paper published in 2020 calculated that “peak costs are greater and reached sooner with a later start to mitigation … Further mitigation delay costs a best estimate of an additional 0.5(5) trillion dollars per year. … Discounted damages due to delayed mitigation action rise by 0.6 trillion US dollars per year in 2020.”
Zero carbon means no emissions, net zero means something very different. Net zero is little more than a declaration of intent, It facilitates business as usual and contributes to worsening the crisis. CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and will be there for years, blighting the lives of our children and their children.
The latest IPCC report suggests that we shall reach an average global temperature rise of 1.5°C in the next decade, an overshoot which will need to be reversed.
Dyke, Watson and Knorr, in a paper published in April 2021, need to be heard and attended to:
“In private, scientists express significant scepticism about the Paris Agreement, BECCS, offsetting, geoengineering and net zero. Apart from some notable exceptions, in public we quietly go about our work, apply for funding, publish papers and teach. The path to disastrous climate change is paved with feasibility studies and impact assessments.
Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? What will we say to our friends and loved ones about our failure to speak out now?
The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.”
The accumulating greenhouse gases are a consequence of burning fossil fuels. That needs to stop