By Hannah McCurdy, A/G Intern
In October of 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel comprised of the world’s leading climate scientists, released a report commissioned at the Paris Climate Accord. The report outlines imminent catastrophic events the entire world faces in the next twelve years. Global temperatures rose 1°C above preindustrial levels. The impact of this rise in temperature is particularly visible in California. In the last 20 years, California has experienced the hottest and driest summers on record. Fire season has extended from 3 months in the summer to year-round devastation. California is pushing some of the most progressive environmental policy in the nation, but it will take a worldwide effort and radical change in current environmental policy to prevent imminent destruction to our planet.
Right now, we are on track to see an increase in global warming of 2°C above preindustrial levels. If global temperatures reach that point, it will cause irreversible damage, particularly to ecosystems. Preventing a 2°C increase and instead aiming for a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures would spare ecosystems indelible damage and preclude natural disasters from furthering refugee crisis and international food insecurity. Insects and plants are twice as likely to lose half their habitat if temperatures increase at 2°C rather than 1.5°C. There is still hope for young people and policymakers to reverse the effects of climate change, but as temperatures increase towards 2°C and 3°C, effects of climate change become increasingly more concrete.
The recent UN climate change conference, COP24, in Katowice, Poland sought to address the IPCC report and hold countries accountable to the Paris Agreement. The countries in attendance settled on rules about measuring carbon emissions and postponed setting rules on carbon credits for nations who performed well in cutting carbon emissions. Most importantly however was the scientific consensus that currently the planet is on track to see an increase of 3°C of warming above pre-industrial levels. This will cause intense flooding, drought, sea level rises, and food insecurity from a decrease in agricultural production. In 2020 at the next conference countries must demonstrate they have met emission cutting goals set nearly 20 years ago. According to the IPCC, we only have one decade to bring carbon emissions under control before irreparable damage ensues. The only countries that sought to undermine the IPCC’s recommendations was a coalition of Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United States, and Kuwait. Australia and Brazil similarly signaled climate skepticism and lauded the benefits of coal production.
Unless there is a worldwide effort undertaken to drastically and immediately reduce carbon emissions, the planet is headed towards climate catastrophe. Effective measures you can take today include calling your representatives in congress and demanding they make climate change a top priority. In the House of Representatives, the “Green New Deal” garnered support from many democrats, after being championed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including eight representatives from California. Youth driven movements, such as the Sunrise Movement, lead the fight to demand rapid and transformative measures to address climate change. There is still time to stop climate catastrophe but action must be immediate and drastic.