Ian T. Dunlop, The Energy Expert's Blog

Ian T.

Energy Expert

“Climate Reality Check”

13 Jun 16 | 25 comments

Climate Reality Check

Added 13 Jun 16 by the Energy Expert | 25 comments

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A new report from Breakthrough, Climate Reality Check, sets out what needs to be done to forestall catastrophic climate change.

Recount, our Breakthrough report published in April 2015, emphasised the need for emergency action if the potentially catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change are to be avoided.

Given the latest evidence, it is almost impossible to now keep temperature increases below 1.5°C or even 2°C with the current approaches. We have left it too late to solve the climate dilemma with a graduated response; emergency action, akin to placing economies on a war footing, is essential.

This is not irrational alarmism, but an objective view of the latest science and evidence, as set out in this paper, which should be read and absorbed by every decision maker.

Recount explained why the international policy target of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels is too high, and why there is no remaining carbon budget if we are to have a realistic chance of holding warming to even the 2°C level.

The Paris December 2015 climate summit in part acknowledged this, endorsing the goal “to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

It is progress to have unanimous agreement from global and corporate leaders about the urgent need to meet these objectives. In political terms, the agreement was far more than expected, but in practical terms it is a disaster in which the chasm between rhetoric and scientific reality has dramatically widened. There is now an unjustified sense of complacency amongst many of the key players that the Paris objectives can be met by tweaking “business-as-usual” policies without radical change, as the glossy brochures and promises pouring forth since Paris from politicians, the corporate sector and international agencies demonstrate.

Ironically, climate change has accelerated rapidly over the last year, in part due to the unprecedented El Niño weather system generating record extreme events.

But dangerous impacts from the underlying trend have also manifested far faster and more extensively than global leaders and negotiators are prepared to recognise. The fundamental point being missed is that the “fat-tail” risks of climate change — the irreversible, positive-feedback tipping points which have long concerned scientists — are being triggered at today’s warming of just 1°C. This can be seen in the Arctic and the Antarctic, in our oceans, and not least with the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. These are genuine, existential risks unlike anything previously experienced by humanity, which will result in a substantial reduction in global population unless rapidly addressed. They cannot be handled by existing risk-management techniques.

New leadership, prepared to grasp and act on this reality, is essential.

Ian T.

Ian T. Dunlop

Energy Expert

A Cambridge educated engineer, with a particular interest in the interaction of corporate governance, corporate responsibility and sustainability

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