threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet

Three generations left? Or is it only three years? New evidence from climate experts in Nature magazine

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Christiana Figueres, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Gail Whiteman, Johan Rockstrom, Anthony Hobley and Stefan Rahmstorff – all experts in climate change issues – have written an article in Nature magazine (28th June 2017) to warn that we have only three years to safeguard our climate. Figueres, a former UN climate chief and executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whom the Paris agreement was signed, and her colleagues, who also include prominent figures from the UNFCCC, set out a six-point plan for turning the tide by 2020.

See: https://www.nature.com/news/three-years-to-safeguard-our-climate-1.22201

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Christiana Figueres is second from the left in the front row.  Photograph taken after the signing of the Paris agreement in December 2015 (COP21)

After rising for decades, global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have levelled in the past three years – a sign that investment in climate mitigations are starting to pay off.  But there is still a long way to go to decarbonize the world economy.

For example, globally, the mean rate of sea level rise increased by 50% in the last two decades. In 2017, temperatures have already reached their highest levels in history in some areas, from California to Vietnam. And the past three years were the hottest on record.  And, two days ago, the highest ever recorded temperature (54˚C) was recorded in the city of Ahvaz, Iran, a city of 1.1 million people.
Due to increases in global temperatures, driven by human activity, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already losing mass at an increasing rate. Summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs are dying from heat stress — entire ecosystems are starting to collapse. The social impacts of climate change from intensified heatwaves, droughts and sea-level rise are inexorable and affect the poorest and weakest first. An American study recently published in Science and reported in the Financial Times, shows that poorer parts of the US stand to suffer damages of up to 20 per cent of their income if global warming continues unabated and that they will suffer disproportionately more than richer areas. 

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The writers of the Nature article believe that the year 2020 is crucially important because if emissions continue to rise, or even stay level, the temperature goals set in Paris in 2015 will become unattainable and they set out the reasons for this.

The six-point plan includes milestones to be achieved in Energy (to 30% renewables worldwide); Infrastructure (decarbonising buildings); Transport (moving to 15% electric vehicles, fuel efficiences for heavy-duty vehicles and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the airline industry); Land (reducing deforestation and a shift to reforestation, sustainable agricultural practices and healthy, well-managed soils); Industry (a goal of halving carbon emissions by 2050, especially in carbon-intensive industries, such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, oil and gas); Finance (to rethink financial investments, the issuing of more green bonds to finance climate-mitigation efforts).

The authors have launched Mission 2020, a collaborative campaign to raise ambition and action across key sectors, so that the carbon emissions will start to go down.  See:

http://www.mission2020.global/

A 29-page report ‘2020: The Climate Turning Point’ can be accessed on the mission2020 website.  It gives the evidential basis for their conclusions that 2020 will be the point of no return, unless carbon emissions have started to drop by then. They suggest actions to bring down the emissions.  These are far-reaching and require a total commitment globally.

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A report on this in the Guardian includes quotes from some of the authors:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/world-has-three-years-left-to-stop-dangerous-climate-change-warn-experts?utm_source=Weekly+climate+roundup&utm_campaign=f65ae632b3-Election+special+-+weekly+roundup&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_81339309ed-f65ae632b3-141770409

Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, commented: “The maths is brutally clear: while the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence [before] 2020.”

Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre said: “We have been blessed by a remarkably resilient planet over the past 100 years, able to absorb most of our climate abuse. Now we have reached the end of this era, and need to bend the global curve of emissions immediately, to avoid unmanageable outcomes for our modern world.”

The authors hope that their 6-point plan will be adopted at the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7-8th July.

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