Thursday, 18. October 2018

From 2 degrees to 1,5 degree

From 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees - a sensible measure or just a drop in the bucket?

The risk of flooding and droughts will increase, affecting countless animals and plants as well as people. Even now, thousands of people in Europe are not only seeking political asylum, but are coming here as climate refugees. Their numbers will rise dramatically. Anyone who fails to get to safety could be fatally threatened by the effects of climate change.

Biodiversity is also expected to be adversely affected. The state of coral reefs (Great Barrier Reef) is well known. It is doubtful that they can still be saved in the long run. What is certain, however, is that if the temperature rises by 2 degrees, a maximum of only one percent of the coral reefs in existence today would survive at all. If the increase is limited to 1.5 degrees, at least 10-30% would have a chance of survival. The images of polar bears drifting aimlessly in the polar sea on a futile search for solid ice floes have been going around the world for quite some time. The animals swim until they become weak and drown. The negative impacts of climate change cannot be completely stopped even by limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees, but they could be slowed down significantly. Under these conditions, any rescue attempt is actually not much more than a drop in the bucket. But given the circumstances, this is probably the only chance we have left.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1.5-degree target

All emissions would have to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by the year 2030. Ten years later, there could no longer be any emissions at all; or any fossil fuels that are still needed would have to be 100% compensated for or removed from the atmosphere after combustion.

To achieve the 1.5-degree target by 2050, a maximum of 770 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases may be released into the atmosphere (according to the IPCC report). The carbon budget would then be zero. With greenhouse gas emissions of more than 40 billion tonnes a year, it quickly becomes clear how big the problem actually is and how little time there is left to take action. It is also impossible to say exactly to what extent the gases already present in the atmosphere could negatively impact this forecast. There is thus a very real fear that neither the 1.5-degree target nor the 2-degree target can be reached at all. It is much more likely that the rise in temperature will be between 2.6 and 4 degrees during this period.

List of measures to achieve a 1.5-degree target by the end of the century:

Completely eliminating emissions harmful to the climate would undoubtedly mean a fundamental change in the way most people on this planet live. This is precisely why industry, policy-makers and the private sector are struggling with implementation. It affects eating habits, housing, transport, everyday life, consumer behaviour and production processes in equal measure. Technical solutions alone will not suffice.

An immediate, complete phase-out of the use of lignite, hard coal and petroleum is needed. The motto in this case is as quickly as possible, but by 2050 at the latest. The fact that thousands of jobs will be lost may also no longer play a role in the phase-out.

 The global energy system must be converted to renewable energy produced from water, sun, wind and biomass as quickly as possible. At least 70% of global energy would have to come from these power sources by 2015. This is also true for industry, which needs to implement energy-saving and efficient processes on the one hand and adapt its production chains on the other.

Up to 1000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide which has already accumulated in the atmosphere must be removed. This could be achieved by putting an immediate stop to all clear-cutting of forests and consistently reforesting other areas. The plants growing in these forests may only be planted for the purpose of capturing carbon dioxide from the air. Under no circumstances may they be burned later in power plants, since the carbon dioxide stored in them would once again be released.

Artificially generating clouds (geoengineering) could also contribute to achieving the 1.5-degree target. However, this method has not yet been fully scientifically developed and still entails substantial risks.

Systematically raising public awareness of the consequences of our own thoughtless consumption of energy and resources could also make a significant contribution. If necessary, new requirements and regulations, but also alternatives (e.g. cheap and convenient switch to public transport) would be necessary. The next world climate summit will take place in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018. The conference will focus primarily on the implementation of the set of rules and regulations agreed in the Paris Agreement. Whatever the outcome of the discussion, no matter which direction the path takes, it is clear that all of our lives will change drastically.


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