While it is seemingly still difficult to convince many people that climate change is a real threat to the progression of humankind and the function of planet Earth, hard numbers from Renate Christ, Secretary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would hit home to the most aggressive of dissenters.
During her presentation on the current state of the environment and the needs for the future at the Blouin Creative Leadership Sumit 2014, she said that the human influence on the climate system is irrefutable. “It has been detected in all components of the climate system,” she noted. Through analysis of certain environmental changes including the northern hemisphere spring snow cover, the arctic summer sea ice extent, the change in global average upper ocean heat content, and the global average sea level change, it is quite evident that human energy patterns, usage, and resource abuse have caused the global average surface temperature to change.
Christ demonstrated that emission growth has definitely accelerated. From 2000 to 2010 the increase in emissions accelerated to 2.2% per year from 1.3% per year from 1970 to 2000. She emphasized that — for the current decade and the next few decades of the global average surface temperature projection — there is not much change because of what is already in the atmosphere, but what we do now will greatly impact what the planet looks like from 2050 on. Christ presented two options for the increased world temperature: a 2 degree increase and 4 degree increase. The 2 degree planet is obviously the goal, knowing that a 0-degree increase is unlikely given what we have already put in the atmosphere.
Flood, heat, and drought are three climate-based effects that grow in threat as the global surface temperature increases. The higher the global surface degree, the less the potential lies for adaptation in certain ecosystems.
In order to stay under 2 degrees, we have a total carbon budget of 790 gigatons of CO2, showed Christ. We’ve used 515, so we have 275 left to go until the risk of approaching the 4 degree world. She summarized that that amount will likely be used up in the next 25 years if we do not change our use of carbon-emitting resources.
In a separate discussion, Wang Tao, Resident Scholar of the Energy and Climate Program at Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy pointed out that it’s quite certain that we will see energy consumptions increase over the next several decades because there are still huge populations and certain infrastructures in place. Kandeh K. Yumkella, Chairman of UN-Energy and the Former Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization echoed this issue. He stated: “70% of the energy consumption over the next 20-25 years will be from developing countries because they have to industrialize.”
The message is clear: If we do not figure out a way to sustainably decarbonize, the global surface temperature will increase, and massive climate change will be inevitable. While abandoning fossil fuels is not altogether practical or likely, a happy medium must be found in order to sustain Earth’s ecosystems.