By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 4 2013 (IPS)
Around the world, 2012 was the year of extreme weather, when we unequivocally learned that the fossil fuel energy that powers our societies is destroying them. Accepting this reality is the biggest challenge of the brand new year.
Re-engineering our societies and lifestyles to prosper on green alternatives is the penultimate challenge of this decade. There is no more important task for all of us to engage in because climate change affects everything from food to water availability.
A number of scientific analyses have demonstrated we already have the technology to re-engineer our society to thrive on green alternative energy. The newest of these was published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature. It plainly states that politics is the real barrier, not technology nor cost. (It is far cheaper to act than not.)
Keeping global warming to less than two degrees C is mainly dependent on “when countries will begin to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, according to the study “Probabilistic cost estimates for climate change mitigation”.
Climate change has already pushed global temperatures up 0.8 degrees C, with significant consequences. No climate scientist thinks two degrees C will be “safe”. Many countries, especially least-developed countries and small island states, want the global target to be less than 1.5C of heating. Even then large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt raising sea levels, albeit at a slower rate.
Delay in making the shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources will be very costly. Waiting until 2020 to curb global emissions will cost twice as much compared with peaking emissions by 2015, the Nature analysis shows.
Serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions means 65 percent of current coal power plants will have to be shut down in the next decade or two, a previous Nature study reported by IPS shows.
Instead of serious action, global emissions continue to break new records, rising about three percent per year. It appears 2012 will be about 52 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents). This is our annual climate scorecard, the most important number in human history. That number needs to fall to be between 41 and 47 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020 to have a reasonable chance of staying below two degrees C of warming. Continue reading