Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2021. 8:37 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) is scheduled to hold a press briefing next Monday to discuss the implications of a major panel report on climate change that confirms that human activity (and inactivity) is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.
Unless major action is taken and immediately, the consequences of these changes will manifest themselves in increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts, and flooding, and a limit at which the planet is exceedingly hot being broken soon, according to the BBC.
Reacting to the report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists whose findings are endorsed by the world’s governments, Secretary-General António Guterres said: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 (Conference of the Parties) is a success.”
In the first major review of the science of climate change since 2013, and months before COP26, the IPCC makes clear that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said: “By using sports terms, one could say the atmosphere has been exposed to doping, which means we have begun observing extremes more often than before.”
Global surface temperatures have risen faster in the period since 1970 than in any other similar period in the last two millennia, manifesting in weather and climate extremes across the globe – from heatwaves in Greece and western North America to floods in Germany and China.
The changes have also impacted many of our planetary support systems that are irreversible on the timescales of centuries to millennia.
The oceans will continue to warm and become more acidic. Mountain and polar glaciers will continue melting for decades or centuries.
Sea levels could rise by two to five meters (six to 16.4 feet) up to 2150, threatening many more in coastal areas with flooding.
Flouting the Paris Climate Agreement in which most countries agreed to work to keep the rate of temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit), and pursue efforts to limit it under 1.5 degrees (34), under all the emissions scenarios considered by the scientists, both targets will be broken this century unless huge cuts in carbon take place.
The authors believe that 1.5C will be reached by 2040, less than 20 years away, in all scenarios. If emissions aren’t slashed in the next few years, this will happen even earlier.
The consequences of going past 1.5C over a period of years would be unwelcome in a world that has already experienced a rapid uptick in extreme events with a temperature rise since pre-industrial times of 1.1C.
So, what can be done? Countries can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reaching net-zero (reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible using clean technology, then burying any remaining releases using carbon capture and storage, or absorbing them by planting trees) by the middle of this century, we can halt and possibly reverse the rise in temperatures.
And there is hope, say the scientists, that things can be reversed. For political leaders, the report is another in a long line of wake-up calls, but since it comes so close to November’s COP26 global climate summit, it carries extra weight.
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