The radical idea that’s gaining momentum at the Paris climate talks

Paris_ Action Now

PARIS — More and more voices at the U.N. climate change conference are standing up for at least trying to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, rather than the more commonly cited 2 degrees C.

It’s a dizzying goal: The world is already at about 1 degrees Celsius of warming, with about 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and concentrations growing by around two parts per million per year on average. Recent research suggests that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C, concentrations couldn’t exceed about 420 to 440 parts per million by 2100.

The position that 1.5 degrees should be our planetary temperature target has long been held by small island nations and a growing number of developing countries and has now been supported by 108 countries.

Not all countries appear to be on board at this point. Saudi Arabia and India have sought to “block attempts” to make reference, in the final Paris agreement, to a U.N. report that explored the issue of holding warming to 1.5 degrees C, and noted that “limiting global warming to below 1.5 °C would come with several advantages in terms of coming closer to a safer ‘guardrail.

A final decision has not been made on that yet, but there was some very strong resistance from some countries.

Only one thing seems clear: the more the world seriously considers a target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the more likely it also is that it will actually stay under 2.

Michel Ouellette JMD

Ouellette JMD LogoKing Global Earth & Environmental Sciences

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Climate change is going to make inequality even worse than it already is

Climate ChangeA general view on the chimneys of the Hsieh-ho Power Plant in Keelung, northern Taiwan.   EPA/DAVID CHANG

In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists demonstrate the full ramifications of a widely accepted theory about climate change: that it will almost certainly have a disproportionate impact on the poor.

Climate change won’t just hit the poor hardest, but it will exacerbate existing inequality within societies essentially slowing, halting or, in extreme cases, even reversing their economic growth.

Most of the efforts on quantifying damage from climate change are still just trying to improve on estimates of damage to the economy as a whole, without looking at its incidence across the income distribution. We need to start directing our efforts at quantifying the distribution.

The new paper fundamentally challenges the idea that all people in the future will be more affluent than previous generations. If climate impacts are borne mostly by the poor, then the future poor will, in fact, be very poor indeed.

Michel Ouellette JMD

Ouellette JMD LogoKing Global Earth & Environmental Sciences

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Our survival may well be in jeopardy


Mankind is now engaging in the biggest battle ever seen

ALJAZEERA – Climate change and poor planning are worsening the toll in lives and money that natural disasters wreak worldwide.

We are in a really delicate situation now where even our survival may be in jeopardy. The list of problems facing our planet is growing everyday. Natural disasters are increasing around the world claiming lives and costing billions of dollars in damage. The UN has estimated the direct economic cost of disasters since 2000 is roughly $1.4tn, cautioning that the total price tag on people’s livelihoods and the wider economy are never fully counted.

Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 2011 was probably the most costly natural disaster in history, causing losses of hundreds of billions of dollars. Last October’s Superstorm Sandy cost the United States more than $50bn, while also devastating Cuba, Haiti, and other Caribbean nations. Record wildfires last year in Russia and the US burned through millions of acres, following another unprecedented Russian summer in 2010 when heat waves claimed 55,000 lives.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported last year that droughts and heat waves are growing harsher and longer in many regions, causing deaths, fires and crop failure. When rain does come, it is often more intense, causing flooding and landslides. Meanwhile, rising sea levels increase the height and damage potential of storm surges in coastal areas.

In 2005, the Hyogo Framework for Action was adopted to encourage countries to become more resilient in the face of natural disasters. But the Global Assessment Report reveals that efforts have had limited success so far. 121 countries have passed legislation for reducing disaster risks since 2005, and more than half of the governments have made substantial progress in assessing and monitoring the risks their people face. But this has had no discernible affect on disaster losses, which continue to stack up around the world.

So far, each step towards a global framework for addressing disasters has been framed by massive natural events. The Hyogo Framework was established in Kobe, Japan, as bodies were still being recovered from the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. The recent disasters casting shadows on this year’s event brought greater attention to the likelihood that climate change is worsening the intensity of weather events. Other than climate change, reckless urban development, the exploitation of groundwater, and deforestation are increasing the likelihood of disasters large and small, and weaken the resilience of communities to withstand them. The Global Assessment Report highlighted that many people suffering the worst effects of climate disasters are not the ones contributing to them.

And this is only the beginning.


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