IPCC Warns, Extreme Weather Devastates, But Where Is The Action?

Kuo, Gioietta | January 29, 2019 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

NASA SVS/NASA Center for Climate Simulation

On October 8, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) held its latest conference in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Its report examined the effects of limiting the global warming above pre-industrial levels. to 1.50 C by year 2100 [1]. The benefits would be enormous compared to the Paris agreement of 2015 which governments have agreed on to limit global temperature to not more than 20 C by 2100. In following this new pathway, the world would benefit from having a more sustainable and equitable development, as well as achieving our goals to eradicate poverty and reduce the threats of more extreme weather – rising sea levels, flooding, super typhoons, diminishing Arctic sea ice and the total disappearance of coral reefs. For example, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower and the Arctic ocean of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.50 C compared with at least once per decade with 20 C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with 1.50 C.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.50 C would require rapid far reaching unprecedented changes to all aspects of society – in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities. Global human caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. The whole project of limiting CO2 emission would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well- being.

One of the key messages that is already striking in the report is that we are already experiencing the consequences of 10 C global warming.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone. The next few years are probably the most important in the history of our planet and our civilization.

Now the science and technology exist but do we have the political will to achieve what is obviously the right goal?

Let us first take stock of how the world is doing right now. in terms of CO2 emission. We list the CO2 emission by major countries in 2015, the latest data available from International Energy Agency, IEA [2].

Table 1 CO2 emission by country in 2015, and 2020 GHG reduction target in MtCO2 (million tonnes of CO2) [2].

Country CO2 Emission 2020 Reduction target
CHINA 9084 Reduce per unit of GDP by 45% below 2005 levels
USA 4998 Reduce 17% at 2005 level
EU 3201 Reduce average 20% in 2013 – 2020
INDIA 2066 Reduce intensity of GDP by 25% below 2005 level
RUSSIA 1469 Reduce 15-25%  below 1990 levels
JAPAN 1142 Reduce 4% below 2005
WORLD TOTAL 32300

KEY FINDINGS FOR ENERGY GROWTH [3]

  • Global energy demand increased by 2.1% in 2017. More than 40% of growth was driven by China and India. 72% was in fossil fuel, 25% by renewables, remainder by nuclear.
  • Global energy related CO2 emissions rose by 1.4% in 2017 reaching a historic high of 5 Gigatonnes. However, USA, Mexico and Japan had a decline. The biggest decline came from USA, mainly because of the deployment of renewables.
  • Oil: global demand rose by 1.6% (for 1.5 million barrels a day) in 2017
  • Natural gas: global demand grew by 3%. Thanks in large part to abundant and relatively low cost supplies. China alone accounted for almost 30% of global growth.
  • Coal: global demand rose 1% in 2017.
  • Renewables: saw the highest growth meeting 1/4 of global energy demand. The leaders are USA and China.
  • Electricity: global demand grew by 3.1% in 2017. This is higher than the overall increase in energy demand. China and India accounted for 70% of this growth.   Output from nuclear plant rose by 26 terawatthours (TWh) in 2017.
  • Energy efficiency. Improvements slowed down.

In all, the shocking news is that global energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017, more than twice the growth rate in 2016.  Instead of following the IPCC’s ‘Summary for Policymakers’ the world is going in the opposite direction, growing its economies by putting more CO2 into the air. This is especially true for China and India, which together represent more than 40% of the increase, while the US is at least developing renewables to counteract the CO2 emission. It is to be noted that global energy demand in 2017 actually reached an estimated 14,050 million tonnes of oil equivalent compared to 10,035 in 2000.  A result of robust world economic growth of 3.7% and lower fossil fuel prices.

It is regrettable that to meet the demand for energy we just use fossil fuel which has met 70% of the growth in energy demand around the world.

The fundamental question we may ask: “Is it necessary for us to have such a growth rate today?”  Maybe we are locked into our capitalist economic system. The changes advocated by IPCC in ‘Summary for policymakers’ simply cannot be reached by tweaking with fine adjustments.  But how can we achieve the fundamental challenges envisaged by IPCC?

Now, what does it all mean for global warming?  The consequences of what we have described above, our ‘Business as usual’ policy is very bad news for Climate Change.

Let us have a look at the dire predictions from IPCC [4].

Table 2  Scenarios of the 21st Century [4] 

Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 22.30.39
Figure 1 IPCC predictions to year 2100 with 4 scenario models [5].

Figure1_Gioietta

Here we show global surface temperature change in degrees C versus year.  As we know some of the extreme weather such as 4-5 category hurricanes, tropical cyclones, flooding, and sea level rise are already with us today.  But the shocking result as shown on this graph is that irrespective of the model, by 2040 we shall probably reach a temperature rise of 1.50 C [6].

Figure 2 shows a very revealing graph about how close we are to 1,50 C [7]

Figure2_Gioietta

As we have tabulated in Table 2 [4] and as we show in figures 1 and 2, we are merrily increasing  CO2 emission, therefore some of the dire consequences will be here in 20 years-time [6].[7].

Today hurricane Michael is causing devastation in Florida and 5 other states.  Yet again, another violent category 4 – 5 storm! The first question that is lingering in our minds is whether global warming has to do with the frequency of the tropical cyclones we are experiencing. There is a mounting consensus that we shall see more intense hurricanes as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change.  But there is no scientific proof.

Figure 3-  Date and location of the strongest tropical cyclones since 1979

Figure3_Gioietta

This data shows an increase in most ocean basins across the globe. The strongest storms for the major storm regions are Western and Eastern North Pacific, North Indian, South Indian, South Pacific, Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico and open North Atlantic. Of these seven regions, five had the strongest storm on record in the past five years, which would be extremely unlikely just by chance [8].

Tropical storms are powered by evaporation of seawater.  As the sea warms, the speed limit of the hurricane wind goes up.  Analysis shows that these storms are moving more slowly, dumping more water on a particular region. There is also a poleward shift.

While there is not yet a ‘smoking gun’ – a single evidence that global warming causes stronger storms, the weight of evidence suggests that the prediction of more intense and wetter tropical cyclones we are observing is coming to pass.

EPILOGUE OR APOCALYPSE?

IPCC, with contributions from more than 1000 eminent global scientist, is doubtless the world’s best authority on climate change.  In its recent ‘Summary for Policymakers’ report, representatives from the 190 participating countries eagerly agreed on the urgency and extremity of the global climate situation.  Yet, at the conclusion of the conference, governments return to ‘business as usual’, growing their economies and pumping more GHG into the atmosphere, quite oblivious of the dire predictions of IPCC that they have just agreed to. The IPCC report will be a key scientific input into the December 2018 Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland where governments will be reviewing the Paris Agreement.

Since the earth has warmed by 10 C from pre-industrial age, extreme weather in terms of unprecedented strong hurricanes and their destructive power is already evident in many parts of the world.

A visitor from outer space looking at the current state of the world might comment, “Are these Earthlings crazy, irrational or simply out of their minds?  They are intelligent creatures, and they have developed sophisticated technology to enable them to predict the future under different scenarios.  On top of this they have already seen some examples of the devastation caused by extreme weather.  Yet, the governments are not changing course, they insist on this suicidal path which they know will lead to further disasters with untold unprecedented suffering for an even greater number of people.  So, are they insane?”

Any reader of this article should reflect soberly on what an individual can do to alleviate and mitigate the coming disasters not in the long-term future but in just decades time.  Can we vote sensible politicians dedicated to the environment into the government, or is it more effective to organize citizen action groups to put pressure and radically change our government? This is particularly relevant to the millennials and those coming of age, the 18-year olds, because they have most to lose.

Can society come together at this very critical juncture?  Urgent action is needed for our own future and that of generations to come.


REFERENCES

[1] 2018/24/PR IPCC PRESS RELEASE 8 October 2018 Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments.

[2] CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion – International Energy Agency.  https://www.iea.org/publications/…/CO2EmissionsfromFuelCombustionHighlights2017.p…

[3] Global energy and CO2 status report 2017 https://www.iea.org/publicaions/freepublicayions/publicayions.GECO2017.pdf

[4]  3.5 IPCC   Scenarios of the 21st Century  www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index/php?idp=29

[5] Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and – IPCC

https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter12_FINAL.pdf

[6]  Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as …www.nytimes.com/…/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

[7] Climate Change:  Even worse than we thought! Sierra club https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/climate-change-even-worse-we-thought-ipcc-report

[8] Does global warming make tropical cyclones stronger? Real Climate strongest tropical cyclones www.realclimate.org/index…/does-global-warming-make-tropical-cyclones-stronger?


Gioietta Kuo, MA Cambridge, PhD in nuclear physics at Birmingham, Atlas Fellow at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She spent 12 years at Princeton University Plasma Physics Lab and has over 70 professional articles and over 100 articles on environmental problems featured in World Future Review (wfs.org), amcips.org, the MAHB and other worldwide think tanks. Additionally, she has published work in ‘People’s Daily’ and ‘World Environment’ – Magazine of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, and others in China. She can be reached at <kuopet@comcast.net.>

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Andrew Gaines

    I think, Gioietta, that there is very little that one individual, or even one group, can accomplish on their own, because to deal with climate change we have to deal with all the drivers that make climate change (and other existential risks) worse. Some call this a whole system change.

    What we can do is align with others to see the goal of transitioning to a life affirming culture into mainstream society. http://WWW.GREATTRANSITION.NET is a platform to support independent citizen-educators in doing this.

    We provide a robust set of communication tools. They include sample emails, guerrilla marketing tactics, and Kitchen Table Conversations.

    Our next milestone will be the GREAT TRANSITION SPLASH in September – a multitude of voices all communicating through their networks and publicly about transitioning to a life affirming culture.

    I invite all MAHB folks to check it out.

    Andrew Gaines
    andrewgaines@andrewgaines.net

    • Greeley Miklashek

      How about promoting voluntary one-child families where-in free women can have access to education above their current 7 years (K-12+4=16!), open access to meaningful work, and ready access to inexpensive, effective, and safe birth control? You can do that, right? I’m doing it. Stress R Us

      • Andrew Gaines

        Greeley, you missed the point, which surprises me. Individuals on their own are just spitting in the wind. Aligned to communicate about whole system change to a life affirming culture (which includes reducing population – and I think your ideas and great!), we can cohere into a powerful force. So, I invite you to actually look at http://www.greattransition.net.

        • Greeley Miklashek

          “possibly humanity as a species is in jeopardy…” Who “missed the point”? My 42 years of medical practice led to my discovery of the FACT that HUMANITY AS A SPECIES IS IN JEOPARDY. All the rest of the flowery systems-think and a lovely website is for naught, without a motivated audience, motivated to save humanity and the biosphere, and promoting voluntary one-child families worldwide is the main way to achieve this end. Do you feel me now? We are already a rapidly dying species in the middle of a species extinction event- our species. Want to read the details? Read “Stress R Us” in the MAHB e-library. This message should be the wake-up call all the well meaning environmentalists have been missing to really motivate the urgency of our message. Thanks for the phrase: HUMANITY AS A SPECIES IS IN JEOPARDY! Stress R US

  • trilemmaman

    The last question “Can we vote sensible politicians dedicated to the environment into the government, or is it more effective to organize citizen action groups to put pressure and radically change our government?” The answer is we need to do both, and more. First, the most powerful thing we can do is organize and lobby (lovingly and persistently educate) our elected officials to do the right thing. Voting is important but it only carries about 1/10,000th of the power that we have as citizens with a Representative and two Senators we can ‘petition’ on a daily, weekly or monthly basis…between elections. AND, we must do more to shift the values of our profoundly sick culture of over consumption, toxic consumption, and addiction to fast feel and look good behaviors that by themselves are killing us. And last, there is ALWAYS something more we can do as individual to make our own home and local environment (garden and parks) benefit nature instead of draining it. I highly encourage you to buy and read “Drawdown” https://www.drawdown.org/the-book/ or attend one of its educational forums being held around the world in local communities. https://www.drawdown.org/events

  • melharte

    An important solution avenue that is missing is emotional buy-in: we are presenting facts, but not marketing the emotional consequences in a continuous, emotionally compelling context. Yet, people make decisions based on their emotions. Trump, for ex., uses fear very effectively to build and control his base. This means an ad campaign over many media venues, day after day — in the US, it would have to be as big as the anti-smoking campaign. We have to find the organizations, money and marketers that are going to make this happen. Otherwise, the Kochs win.

    • trilemmaman

      We also need to market the economic and health consequences as they accumulate in both blood and treasure. AND how climate change is not the ONLY threat we face…all of them being related…and an urgent need of preventive measures instead of our typical reactionary policies.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Query: Can humans live well by cooperatively renewing Earth rather than exploiting it?

    • trilemmaman

      Yes. If we change our values.

  • GrowthBuster

    Our worship of everlasting economic growth will end us, apparently. Our blind faith in economic growth is stronger than our ability to analyze the evidence that we cannot expand economic throughput w/o increasing CO2. If the warnings of the past year (World Scientists’ Warning, IPCC 1.5 Degrees Report, Living Planet Report 2018) don’t shake this faith, what will?

    • jason brent

      Only an idiot would believe that economic growth can continue forever on the finite earth. However, economic growth will continue as long as population growth continues. Therefore, to stop economic growth humanity must stop population growth. The reverse side of the coin–if economic growth ceases population growth must cease. It can cease in only one of three ways—a) wars (most likely with weapons of mass destruction), disease, starvation and other horrors; b) voluntary population control; and c) coercive population control. Due to the power of compound growth, (and the population and the economies of the nations of the world grow in a compound manner) economic growth must and will stop in the very near future–probably before 2100 and certainly before 2020. Voluntary population control has zero chance of stopping population growth in time to prevent the collapse of civilization. Therefore, in order to prevent the collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions, coercive population control must immediately commence on a world-wide basis. Jbrent6179@aol.com

      • trilemmaman

        OK. I’m an idiot. And I think anyone who believes that infinite growth of wisdom, human physical, mental and spiritual potential isn’t possible — is a fool. We spend money on what we value. There is no limit as to what we can do or make to keep our selves, our environment and our economy healthy and sustainable. And there is no limit to economic growth if our values are to abide by “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” instead of short term profits, feeling good and looking good. I know this value shift is NOT going to happen without a lot of pain and suffing first.
        That appears to be how we humans learn best. But it is possible. And if you add to this equation humanities eventual need to find or terra-form another planet due to the inevitable expiration date of earth, then there is no limit other than limited thinking by people who think others are idiots for not doing the same.

      • Greeley Miklashek

        “Voluntary population control has zero chance of stopping population growth in time to prevent the collapse of civilization.” NEWSFLASH!: population density stress is killing us now and without our $3.8T medical care annually, including our 4.3B Rx annually, we wouldn’t be here now, at least in the US. We are in mid-collapse. The next step is failure of reproduction from societal collapse (divorce, mental illness, abandonment of children, infant mortality, abortion,etc.) and/or neuroendocrine mechanisms long known and established in our genes to turn-off reproduction in over-crowded populations. Infertility in the US has risen 100% in 34 years and sperm counts in the West have fallen 59% in 38 years. At this rate we could experience the extinction of our species by 2,100. The only alternative is voluntary one-child families from liberated free women with ready access to education beyond the current 7 years, free access to meaningful work, and access to safe, inexpensive, effective birth control. Maybe when we finally realize how f**ked we already are, then we’ll wake up and just try to raise one healthy child, which now costs upwards of $380,000 just to get him/her to 18yo. This would bring our worldwide populations back down to a barely sustainable 2.5B by 2,100. Still think we have “zero chance”? Stress R Us