Monday’s third and final section of the comprehensive review by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released by the panel. It is a far cry from the two foreboding assessments it received before. Optimistic, even.
The report was written by 278 scientists from 65 nations. It concluded that while the world may be a hair short of the tipping point in global warming, there are more awareness of the urgency of the situation, and technology and strategies that can reduce emissions to prevent catastrophe.
The question is, can we act in time?
The IPCC is a group of 195 governments that is about to complete its seventh-year review of climate science. It has issued intermittent warnings about the dangers of average temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial Age levels.
Temperatures above this level or higher will cause profound changes to our planet’s fragile and resilient ecosystem. This will have devastating consequences for humans, animals, plants, and the environment. Droughts will be more severe and frequent, people will have to move, food production will be more difficult, and many other consequences.
Some of these effects are already visible in Hampton Roads. They include more invasive and frequent flooding, even on sunny day; unpredictable and frequent extreme weather; and complications for area farmers due to unpredictable growing conditions.
Although climate activists have been urging action for years, the IPCC report shows that it is actually making a difference. Global governments are responding to public demands by adopting policies that reduce fossil fuel use, accelerate the transition into renewable energy, promote efficiency, and protect valuable habitats.
The IPCC concluded that recent progress has given rise to the options to reduce emissions by half by 2030. This is the kind of drastic and rapid action required to prevent warming exceeding 1.5 degrees.
The combination of the falling cost of solar and wind technology, increased battery storage capacity, innovative efficiency measures, and other technology allows for comprehensive mitigation that can be used to prevent disasters.
It is likely that things will get worse. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report suggested Hampton Roads could experience 1 foot sea-level rise by 2050. This is the same increase as the last century. However, these strategies could help us avoid reaching a point of no returns.
But can we all work together as a global community to keep the warming under control? Will we be able to make difficult choices, change our ways, and keep our habitat from becoming more hostile and dangerous?
Recent evidence, both nationally and locally, suggests that this is a very large order.
Washington, perpetually stuck in gridlock and dependent on fossil fuel, has refused to take even the simplest steps to improve efficiency. High gas prices have some calling for more oil production and a transition to renewables that would be beneficial to people and the environment.
Governor. Glenn Youngkin, a former coal lobbyist, stepped in before he took office.
Youngkin wants Virginia to be removed from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This market-based carbon reduction program has generated hundreds of million for flood mitigation and low income energy programs. Youngkin has been assisted by Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia, who has a fervent appetite for joining lawsuits that damage the environment.
The IPCC report stresses that good decisions, made now, are the best chance for the planet. What will the IPCC report say about us if we don’t use the tools necessary to reduce emissions, limit global heating, and protect the planet? What will we say to our children and grandchildren if we fail to use the tools we have?