IPCC reports devastating climate consequences; US in denial while EU does not fully support the 2050 net zero emissions target

UNEP

UN Environment Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya Date: 15/10/2018 Location: Nairobi, Kenya         © The European Sting

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report last week mentioning that limiting global warming temperature to 1.5°C is the only choice to ensure a more sustainable and equitable society compared to the 2.0°C. This assessment came out less than two months ahead of COP24 Katowice summit where all parties have to finalize a rulebook for the Paris agreement.

However, the US president and his administration still believe that this is an overestimated scenario and there is no reason to be frightened. Furthermore, the EU stance on this UN special report was condescending but not to the extent that the Old Continent complies with the suggested timeline which is essential to meet the target of 1.5°C.

IPCC cries out for immediate actions

IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change and was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988. Last Monday, IPCC launched in Incheon, Republic of Korea its report which full name is “Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty”. Back in 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had invited IPCC to access the situation and the UN body responded with this special report written by ninety-one authors and reviewed by editors from 40 countries with over 6,000 cited references and a total of 42,001 expert and government review comments.

The report clearly outlines that the temperature has already increased by 1°C above pre-industrial levels which has created several worrying effects in the planet and humanity. Thus, the key message is to limit temperature below 1.5°C which will be beneficial to people and environment but requires urgent actions by all parties.  In case the temperature reaches 2°C or more, the climate consequences would be disastrous. More specifically, the authors emphasize that global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C by 2100 and that coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas almost all would be lost with 2°C. Furthermore, the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.

Regarding the actions that need to be taken in order to prevent the climate change impacts, it is noted that global CO2 emissions have to reduce by 45% from 2010 levels till 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. This is for sure a very promising target and very difficult to be materialized based on the current climate goals set by governments around the world.

Is European Commission really backing up IPCC’s 1.5°C goal?

Both Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas welcomed the report and the endeavors of the scientists to point out the consequences and actions to be taken by governments in order to tackle climate change. More in detail, Commissioners Cañete and Moedas stated last Monday: “The EU has been at the forefront of addressing the root causes of climate change and strengthening a concerted global response to it in the framework of the Paris Agreement. In short, as there is no planet B, saving our planet Earth should be our number one mission. To this end, research and Innovation will play a crucial role in our efforts to tackle climate change and the EU will continue to lead in that domain. We must raise our ambitions in combating climate change in line with the outcome of this report, and turn today’s challenges into opportunities.”

However, the long-term climate strategy which is going to be released by the EC in November has three possible scenarios according to a draft document leaked to the media. One of them, seeing as the most ambitious, is the net zero goal by 2050 which is in line with the IPCC report whereas the other two options are 80% emissions reduction by 2050 or reaching net zero emissions by 2070. These options have to be taken into consideration by the European Parliament and the EU member states. The latter shows that there are still many obstacles which are mainly driven by the business sector and could affect the final decision.

Germany lowers EU climate goal?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is struggling with environmentalists and industrialists. Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze supported the IPCC report by saying: “We cannot not lose any more time on climate protection. The next few years are crucial.” But Mrs Merkel is under continuous pressure from industry sectors like cars which are opposing an EU 2030 climate target raise from 40% to 45%. Thus, if the business influential sectors prevail, it is most likely that Germany will drag the whole EU down regarding its climate targets. This can also have huge impact on other countries’ contribution, a moment that is very critical for the implementation of the Paris agreement.

US administration underestimates IPCC report

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, questioned the findings of the UN report and mentioned that there is no need for serious concern when interviewed by ABC News. His exact words were the following: Personally, I think the U.N. study is … way, way too difficult. I won’t say it’s a scare tactic but I think they overestimate. I’m just saying, do we know precisely? And I mean, [is it] worth modeling things like how much of it is manmade, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rain forest and other issues? I think we’re still exploring all of that. I don’t think we should panic. I don’t think there’s a, you know, imminent catastrophe coming, but I think we should look at this in a level-headed and analytical way.”

The above statement clearly shows that the US administration stands by its President who had stated last year that the US will withdrawl from the Paris climate pact as it is “an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” The US seems to be in denial of this thorny problem, holds a passive stance and underestimates the risks that climate change can cause to the entire planet. Apparently, the US will act in a similar manner in COP24 in less than two months from now. Will the world’s second largest emitter be able to influence other nations to the same direction?

The climate clock is ticking quickly.

All in all, the European Union needs to take the lead and overcome all obstacles, focusing on how to deal with global warming, in order to persuade everyone to take more ambitious actions in a unite and responsible framework.

The world nations have only a few years to take measures and COP24 is the right moment to create the proper context that will permit each and every member state to implement the Paris agreement on climate change.

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