Hopefully, on Earth Day today, high-level ministers from all countries are thinking about what they can bring to the table at a key set of meetings on climate change in early May.
This will be the first opportunity for governments to discuss their proposed climate action plans in light of the finalIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last week.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.” — Professor Ottmar Edenhofer
That report warned that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels are still rising far too fast, even with more than 650 billion dollars invested in renewable energy in the last three years. However, over the same time period even more money was invested in getting more fossil fuels out of the ground.
The latter investment is keeping humanity and the planet locked onto a devastating path of a global temperature increase of four to five degrees C, the IPCC’s Working Group III report warned.
Scientists and economists say that unlocking ourselves from disaster will require a massive reduction in emissions – between 40 percent and 70 percent – by midcentury. This is can be readily accomplished without inventing any new technology and at a reasonably low cost, reducing global economic growth by a comparatively tiny 0.06 percent.
“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the IPCC team, said at a press conference.
It does mean an end to investments in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure as the annual growth in CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas must peak and decline in the next few years. The atmosphere already has 42 percent more CO2 than it did prior to 1800.
This extra CO2 is trapping more heat from the sun, which is heating up the oceans and land, creating the conditions that spawn super storms and extreme weather. And it will do so for the next 1,000 years since CO2 is a very durable molecule.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” Edenhofer said.