Mount Kilimanjaro

A really inconvenient truth

It has been almost a decade since the 2006 release of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ which attempted to bring the issue of climate change to the front of global consciousness.

A decade on, among endless international dithering when it comes to taking substantive action to address climate change, it has been revealed that Earth is about to hit the 1°C mark in increase in average global temperature.

EarthYesterday, the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the British national weather service, announced their temperature records for 2015 indicate ‘for the first time, global mean temperature at the Earth’s surface is set to reach 1°C above pre-industrial levels.’

Reaching the 1°C mark increase in average global temperature is a significant climate change event because it takes us to the halfway mark in the increase to 2°C, which is deemed by scientists the maximum manageable increase without catastrophic disruptions to human life on Earth.

The importance of keeping global average warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels was recognised at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since then, nations were supposed to set forward carbon emission targets to make sure the global average temperature would stay below the °2C increase.

… deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required according to science, and as documented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change, with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above pre- industrial levels, and that Parties should take urgent action to meet this long-term goal, consistent with science and on the basis of equity; also recognizes the need to consider, in the context of the first review, as referred to in paragraph 138 below, strengthening the long-term global goal on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge, including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5 °C;
Report of the Conference of the Parties on its sixteenth session, held in Cancun from 29 November to 10 December 2010, Framework Convention on Climate Change (15 March 2011)

Environmental and climate groups have been long critical of the haphazard global effort to reduce carbon emissions. The evidence emerging seems to indicate they could be right, and current efforts may be insufficient to achieve the reductions required to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change.

Related stories:
The CSIRO reveals why we can’t have nice things, such as a liveable planet
Our Minister for Energy makes a ‘strong moral case’ for … coal?!
The Coalition stays true to form on emissions
Tony Abbott’s war on renewable energy kicks into high gear
Al Gore and Sir Martin Sorrell talk at Cannes Lions 2015
When Barack Obama met David Attenborough
Tony Abbott vs wind turbines
‘I’m not a scientist,’ and other climate change doozies

Recent modelling by Climate Central based on a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in October, indicates if the global average temperature rises above 2°C, the consequences for coastal areas of the globe will be significant, with an estimated 627 million people directly affected by rising sea levels.

Even if we manage to limit the temperature increase to 2°C, which appears to be increasingly unlikely on current trends, an estimated 280 million people will eventually find their homes underwater.

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Of course, these sea level rises won’t happen overnight, or in our lifetime, but through our ignorance and denial we are dooming future generations to a potentially very difficult future.

Sea level rises are not the only consequence of rising global temperatures. Crop viability, water resources, biodiversity and public health will also be significantly affected.

A study released by The World Bank on the weekend indicates climate change will push more than 100 million additional people back into poverty by 2030, because the poor are more vulnerable to climate-related events than wealthier people.

Climate impacts will affect agriculture the most, a key sector in the poorest countries and major source of income, food security, nutrition, jobs, livelihoods and export earnings. By 2030, crop yield losses could mean that food prices would be 12 percent higher on average in Sub-Saharan Africa. The strain on poor households, who spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food, could be acute. The resulting malnutrition could lead to an increase in severe stunting in Africa of 23 percent.

At the global level, warming of 2-3°C could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5 percent, or more than 150 million more people affected. Diarrhea would be more prevalent, and increased water scarcity would have an effect on water quality and hygiene.

The result would be an estimated 48,000 additional deaths among children under the age of 15 resulting from diarrheal illness by 2030.
Rapid, climate-informed development needed to keep climate change from pushing more than 100 million people into poverty by 2030, The World Bank (8 November 2015)

The Munich Re Group, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies also issued a report recently titled ‘Expect the Unexpected,’ in which the company warns of the serious impact of climate change on Australia. The list of climate change related issues Australia will be facing according to Munich Re is a sobering read.

Sadly, the cultural, economic, environmental, human and social cost of our climate inaction globally will likely be very high and, in the long-term, those costs could outweigh what the cost of taking substantive pre-emptive actions would have been.

That’s a series of really inconvenient truths.

It takes a special kind of combination of arrogance and ignorance to pretend that over seven billion humans can have no effect on our tiny blue planet hurling through space, and to reject the consensus position of the most brilliant scientific minds of the world as some socialist conspiracy for a new world order.

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