Being an environmental website, Inhabitat, unfortunately, reports on many terrifying new studies. But in what’s probably the most terrifying of all recent terrifying new studies, the U.N. chief called the report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “code red for humanity.”
In this first major review of climate change science since 2013, the results are clear. “It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet,” said University of Reading Professor Ed Hawkins, one of the study authors, as reported by the BBC.
The other most urgent message? We’re not talking about an emergency in the distant future. Change must happen now if we have any chance to avert disaster.
Global surface temperatures have risen more since the 1970s than they have in any other 50-year stretch in the past two millennia. Back in the good old climate days of 1850, the global surface temperature was 1.09 degrees Celsius lower than it was between 2011 and 2020. And the last five years have been the hottest of all.
Then there’s the melting sea ice, retreating glaciers and rising oceans. In the last 50 years, the sea level rise has sped up nearly three times as fast as it increased between 1901 and 1971. The report’s authors concluded that, again, human influence was very likely the cause of glaciers’ global retreat. We’re also responsible, at least in part, for the recent spate of heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events.
And, scientists say, we’ve set changes in motion that aren’t reversible, at least not in the foreseeable millennia. Even if we start behaving now, the oceans are still going to grow warmer and more acidic, and the glaciers will keep melting. “The consequences will continue to get worse for every bit of warming,” said Hawkins. “And for many of these consequences, there’s no going back.”
The scientists prepared a series of models, none of them good. While nearly every country on the planet signed the Paris agreement, which aims to contain the global rise in temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, preferably 1.5 degrees, the study authors don’t think we’ll make it. In fact, they think we’ll hit the 1.5C mark by 2040, if not sooner. “The new report’s best estimate is the middle of 2034, but the uncertainty is huge and ranges between now and never,” said study author Malte Meinshausen of the University of Melbourne in Australia, as reported by BBC.
However, the report allowed a glimmer of hope alongside the huge dose of terror. Cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 and we might survive. “The thought before was that we could get increasing temperatures even after net zero,” said Piers Forster from the University of Leeds, another study author. “But we now expect nature to be kind to us and if we are able to achieve net zero, we hopefully won’t get any further temperature increase; and if we are able to achieve net zero greenhouse gases, we should eventually be able to reverse some of that temperature increase and get some cooling.”
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