12 years to save the Earth

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New report by international panel of scientists estimates we have less time than previously thought.

In October 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing the impacts of global warming of 1.5º C and came to an overwhelming conclusion: there is only 12 years to prevent the worst possible outcomes of global warming. As it stands, the United States has no plan to address the impending crisis.

The report, compiled by 91 authors from over 40 countries, was commissioned as a result of the Paris Agreement, originally adopted by 184 parties in 2016. The IPCC was observing the impacts of global warming of 1.5º C compared to the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, and keeping projected global warming of 3.1º C - 3.7º C by 2100 in consideration. According to the report, the effects of the seemingly moderate 1.5 degree increase are still drastic; over 100 million people will fall into poverty as a result of widespread famine and drought, the death of species and entire ecosystems, and loss of life-sustaining land. The report was described as “incredibly conservative” by Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, for not factoring in the possibility of climate-driven refugees and the potential of the effects of global warming that are inherently irreversible. And that’s the best case scenario.

In order to reach this goal, CO2 emissions would have to be decreased by 45 percent in relation to 2010 levels by 2030, and drop to a net 0 by 2050. To achieve such a lofty goal, the leading nations of the world would have to implement rigorous new policies; but even the leading members of the Paris Agreement won’t meet the emission reduction targets they pledged to meet, according to Nature, a British scientific journal. Nations are reluctant to meet the demanding goals because many of the necessary proposals are unpopular ones. “There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” said Drew Shindell, one of the authors of the report and climate scientist at Duke University, commenting on a resource crucial on a systematic level to many industrialized nations.

Studies show that long-term costs might be even greater than the current sacrifices. When covering the IPCC report, The New York Times reported that “the estimated $54 trillion in damage from 2.7°C of warming would grow to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm by 3.6 degrees and beyond.”

And yet, the United States still has not proposed any comprehensive measure to address the impending disaster that their citizens, along with the world, will face. Just this past Friday (1/25), a senior official of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bill Wehrum, said he was still trying to “figure out” if climate change was a “crisis.” Andrew Wheeler, acting EPA chief, described climate change as a “huge issue” but not “the greatest crisis.”

Additionally, the EPA has scaled back offensive measures against climate change, like the Clean Power Plan, and instead replace this policy with the more lenient Affordable Clean Energy rule concerning greenhouse gas emissions. Not only this, but in 2020 the United States will withdraw as a member from the Paris Agreement, which seeks to reverse the tragic effects of global warming that the IPCC has been investigating.

If the findings of the IPCC are indeed accurate, then there are only 12 years left to save the Earth from the catastrophes of climate change, and the United States isn’t at the forefront to prevent it.


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