You are here

It’s not only the magnitude of climate change, it’s the pace at which it is happening

10 Oct 2018

In an interview with The New Yorker on October 8, and in light of the IPCC Special Impacts Report on Global Warming released earlier this week, ASE chair Prof. Benjamin Horton noted that it is not only the magnitude of climate change we should be worrying about but the rate at which the change is taking place. As an example with major impact, he explained that once the West Antarctic Ice Sheet hits its tipping point, somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming, the whole ice sheet will irreversibly disintegrate, boosting further warming and sea level rise in a series of positive feedback effects governed by the laws of physics. After that it will be too late to stop or reverse the process; in the words of Prof Horton: “It is very hard to grow an ice sheet, but very easy to melt”.

The IPCC Special Impacts Report on Global Warming looks at the effects of global warming that are already happening due to the current temperature increase of 1.2 degrees C from pre-industrial levels, and future scenarios based on further warming up to 1.5 degrees or higher. The report has very broad scientific consensus, co-authored by ninety-one authors from forty different countries and citing over 6,000 scientific reports and experts. The core message, more pressing than in previous reports, is that change needs to happen fast in order to prevent disastrous consequences including major species extinctions, permanent inundation caused by sea level rise affecting tens of millions of people, extreme weather threatening food production, coastline safety, human health and wellbeing and causing expansion of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

Carolyn Kormann of The New Yorker sums up actions needed to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees as follows: “governments and private businesses must make unprecedented changes—on a sweeping global scale—in energy systems, land management, building efficiency, industrial operations, shipping and aviation, and city-wide design. Within the next decade, human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions need to fall forty-five per cent below 2010 levels. By 2050, net carbon-dioxide emissions must equal zero”.

Read the article in The New Yorker here:
Read the IPCC Special Impacts Report on Global Warming here: