The foremost group of scientists of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has again published a landmark report on the evidence of climate change. In scientific terms, they now called it “unequivocal” and for the first time they said that humans are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause. Underpinning the status and authority of this report, all the contributing scientists have to agree on every statement in the report of which the summary for policy makers has just been published.
Business as usual model
In addition to their analysis of the current state of climate change, they have made predictive models on the future of our global climate. The business as usual model shows a terrible runaway climate change and warming of more than 10OC in some regions. Their projections beyond 2100 display a bleak world: sea level rise causing floods, extreme wet conditions, alternated by heat waves. The message is, all of this could be the case if we continue our levels of carbon emissions.
Climate runaway is not our destiny. There are alternative futures. The scientists of the IPCC panel developed several scenarios, of which the mildest (with a peak of concentration of CO2 of 421ppm) shows a stabilisation of temperature rise. The other, in between scenarios all pass the threshold of 1,5 OC temperature rise since the Industrial age. The question now is, how do we reach drastic reductions in CO2 emissions and achieve immediate change in production and consumption?
Ending poverty AND reducing climate change
There are still billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid. They need to get out of poverty and have their basic needs fulfilled: clean water, energy and a proper meal. This has to be done without raising CO2 emissions and other environmental pressures.
Many efforts are already going in this direction. Slingshot, a purifier that brings fresh water to the most deprived is one neat example. Algae production is a very promising source for bio fuel, but is not ready yet for economic up scaling. Solar energy efficiency is improving largely as innovations aim at eliminating energy loss. Likewise, agricultural innovations are targeting losses and waste, while increasing crop yields and enhancing the quality of ecosystems. Agroecology and similar approaches embody a variety of techniques to do so.
The urgency to think differently
As the IPCC reports and summaries for policy makers become more explicit in their statements on the causes of climate change and the consequences of business as usual energy consumption and CO2 emission patterns, we cannot look away and have to face the urgency to apply different technologies and change behavioural patterns.
Advanced information technology to speed up solutions
Luckily we live in an age of advanced information technology. We can learn fast and create new things rapidly, even from a DIY mode. We can connect online and offline, and share ideas with great minds all over the globe. New materials with extreme properties, the accelerating processing power of computer chips, and an enhanced awareness of “we can do it” are driving future solutions for these big climate change related challenges. As the urgency to produce CO2 neutrally becomes more pervasive, it will become the top priority of designers, inventors and most industries, either small or big. This will be at the core of our mindset of the 21th century.
Do you want to find out how hot it may be in your lifetime? The Gardian has made a neat animation to show you that!