DATE: October 8, 2018
SNIP: Absent heroic efforts, the world has locked in dangerous climate change. That’s according to a much-anticipated report released on Monday in South Korea by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored collection of the world’s top scientists.
That stark, blunt assessment comes after years of deliberation at the request of the world’s most vulnerable nations to assemble pathways that could limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C, now believed to be the upper limit that would preserve the stability of the world’s interconnected ecological and societal systems.
Some key conclusions: The world has already warmed by about 1 degree C and without a global coordinated effort, the world will reach 1.5 degrees in as little as 12 years. “Several hundred million” lives are at stake, according to the IPCC, and the actions that are required to ensure a just transition to a fossil-fuel free world have significant overlap with the actions that would be needed to reduce global poverty.
Some of the initial coverage frames the IPCC’s stark conclusions in the too-familiar phrase of a time limit for action. “The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control” reads the Washington Post’s headline. That’s absolutely the wrong way to frame this. We only have a decade left to finish our initial coordinated retooling of society to tackle this challenge. The scientists were quite clear about this. By 2030, we’ll need to have already cut global emissions in half (45 percent below 2010 levels, according to the report), which (again, according to the IPCC) would require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in “all aspects of society.”
In short, nothing like what is happening — and what needs to happen — has ever occurred in history.