Monday, May 20

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

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

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 powered-stations 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.