Climate Change: What Does It All Mean????

October 10, 2018

I did not forget about you, my sweet sweet blog. I have merely been contemplating the declining state of this earth and the dumb current administration full of white sacks of skin doing nothing about it. We're in deep deep doo-doo, there's NO DENYING IT, and I will now be attempting to explain what's going on in one, digestible blog post.  Also, any indented paragraphs include additional (optional) information.

 

As you may have seen, a new UN report says we have 12 years before climate change becomes a catastrophic issue. I've seen many news and buzzfeed-y type outlets spreading the message, "12 years before we all inevitably die a fiery death," or something to that effect. The truth is, we are in big trouble as a planet. But the falsity is that the report does not say we'll all die in 12 years. That's an important distinction, I think. 

 

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report on Monday (Oct. 10, 2018) following the 2015 Paris agreement. This Paris agreement might ring a few bells. In 2017, Trump announced the US would leave the agreement, despite the US being the second largest contributor to CO2 emissions worldwide (see graph below). The agreement itself keeps track of global emissions reports and signifies a dedication to reduce these emissions due to climate change. Brazilian presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro also plans to withdraw his country from the agreement if he is elected (you can learn more about him on the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, but you can't have my HBO login, sorry).

 

This graph shows the top contributors to CO2 emissions worldwide in billions of tons. Land use change refers to deforestation and other ways humans alter earth's surface. Data courtesy of The Washington Post

 

Just this year we saw monumental hurricanes in the US, we saw Cape Town, South Africa approach a Day Zero in which they would have completely run out of water, and we saw forest fires in the ARCTIC.

 

This is not normal. And this is why it is so important to understand what the IPCC report actually says. 

 

The IPCC report is essentially concluding that the world should set a collective goal. The goal being keeping carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses to a minimum so that the earth's temperature only rises 1.5 degrees celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures every year. 

 

Good god what does it all mean?

 

Well, first of all, "pre-industrial temperatures" refers to how we compare today's temps to the temps of yore. It literally means temperatures from before the world was industrial. As I understand it, we compare to the period of time between 1720 and 1800 because the major natural factors then, (solar and volcanic activity) were most similar to today.  

 

The original Paris agreement from 2015 stated that we should aim to keep the rising annual temp below 2 degrees celsius. New research from the IPCC (the one released Monday, that is) shows that 1.5 degrees should really be our goal, and anything above that is what would cause catastrophic natural disasters. 

 

The graphic below outlines how the world would change at different rising temperatures. As you can tell, a 2 degree celsius rise in temperature would be devastating. Even 1.5 is devastating, but it's barely possible as it is. 

 

 Data courtesy of The Guardian

 

A 2 degree annual rising temperature would also displace 10 million people by 2100 due to rising sea levels. It would cause ice-free summers in the arctic every 10 years instead of every 100. Anything above 1.5 degrees would cause heat waves, severe rain and snow, and damage to agriculture.

 

So 1.5 degrees is the goal. Cool. How to we achieve it? 

 

The report concludes it IS entirely possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, but it would require immediate and colossal changes. 

 

According to NPR, scientists and researchers are wary of a 1.5 degree goal, as it's not very practical or economically feasible. It would require a 40-50% reduction in emissions by 2030, leading us to a carbon neutral world (no additional greenhouse gasses) by 2050. 

 

The IPCC even hopes for a potential new system to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. A scientist at MIT developed carbon capture technology, but it can cost up to $1,000 to extract a single ton of carbon dioxide and would require a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is the opposite of what we want.  

 

One suggestion is reforestation, or growing new forests. As we know, trees take in CO2 and release oxygen. This solution would require an immense amount of land. 

 

Land will become an important asset, as the population is expected to grow by an additional 2 billion by 2050, and land for produce/agriculture will become extremely valuable. 

 

Another suggestion is burning biomass or agricultural waste to create electricity instead of fossil fuels. This tech is still being developed, as I understand it, and currently only one percent of electricity in the US is made this way because it's extremely expensive. 

 

An example of this in action is turning corn into ethanol. This method has been deemed impractical since it would raise food prices astronomically. It would become important that this process only use agricultural waste or waste wood for this reason. 

 

The best solution would be not releasing CO2 at all. Unfortunately, that's just not gonna happen right now.

 

Clearly, there's no simple answer. Keeping the rising temp to 1.5 degrees celsius is possible, but will require massive change worldwide. Our country and others have to devote ourselves to this. There's quite literally no good reason not to.

 

Science and politics should not be butting heads, and yet, here we are. This is NOT a political agenda. This is the future for ourselves and our children, and our administration doing nothing is doing more harm to life on this earth as we know it every single day. 

 

So, if you have not yet registered to vote for this year's midterm elections, what are you waiting for you big goob???

 

Go to votesaveamerica.com for an easy way to check your registration status and for information on voting registration deadlines nationwide. I included a picture below with national registration deadlines (courtesy of Crooked Media on Instagram).

 

 

 

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