UN Climate Change Report
According to a new report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, countries across the world have a much more limited time span to make changes to decelerate effects of climate change.
What Are Some Key Points?
In its summary for policymakers, the IPCC said the following: “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.” The Panel also notes that they have a “high confidence” of global temperatures reaching that mark.
One thing on many people’s minds is the potential impacts a temperature increase of 1.5°C or 2°C could have. For starters, the IPCC writes that “climate models project robust differences in regional climate characteristics,” meaning that different geographical areas could see different impacts based on temperature increase. Possible differences could include changes in “mean temperature in most land and ocean regions (high confidence), hot extremes in most inhabited regions (high confidence),” as well as distinct changes in precipitation in some regions.
In terms of sea level rise, one report published earlier this year (summarized by NASA), found that sea levels are not rising gradually, but instead accelerating at a faster pace. The IPCC’s report concurs that sea levels will rise, but more so at a gradual rate. They note that sea levels will “continue to rise well beyond 2100.” However, the IPCC also explains that a more gradual sea level rise could be beneficial for world-wide preparedness: “A slower rate of sea level rise enables greater opportunities for adaptation in the human and ecological systems of small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas (medium confidence).”
What about our biodiversity and ecosystems? The impacts of temperatures reaching 1.5°C will be fewer than if they reach 2.0°C, the report states. Be that as it may, thousands of species’ ecosystems could be negatively impacted, and some of the species could become extinct. The report notes that “approximately 4% (interquartile range 2–7%) of the global terrestrial land area is projected to undergo a transformation of ecosystems from one type to another at 1°C of global warming,” but “this indicates that the area at risk is projected to be approximately 50% lower at 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence).”
The report delves further into topics of ocean acidification, risks to human health, and adaptation needs. What is consistently mentioned throughout the report, is that a 1.5°C increase would have fewer (or not as severe) impacts than a 2°C increase. Either way, there will be impacts to ocean acidity, oxygen levels, ocean temperature, biodiversity, and ecosystems and “their functions and services to humans.”
What is the United States’ Position on This Report, & What are They Currently Doing?
The IPCC report sends a stark warning to countries and world leaders, especially top polluters of greenhouse gas emissions, including the U.S., China, and India. In a CNN interview aired in mid-October, the President said, “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made.”
The President’s position on climate change is a nearly complete reversal of former President Obama’s. President Obama’s administration joined nearly every other nation on Earth at the Paris Climate Accords–and committed to a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; domestically, they implemented a Clean Power Plan; and enacted a swath of federal environmental regulations.
Over the past 2 years, President Trump’s administration has taken action to reverse many of these policies. The President withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords last year; has made changes to the Clean Power Plan (such as letting states regulate coal plant emissions); and eliminated dozens of federal environmental regulations. The current administration’s environmental policies contrast to those of the Obama administration’s.
Some states and many municipalities across the U.S., including the state of California and some of its cities, have committed to upholding components of the Paris Climate Accords. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, announced this past summer that his company would donate “$70 million dollars divided up among 20 ‘Leadership Cities’—those that propose the most compelling projects to reduce emissions in the building and transportation sectors, or that are already climate leaders in their states.”
On October 12, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that San Jose, California, had “been accepted into a two-year program aimed at helping the nation’s 10th largest city meet its climate plan goals.” While San Jose will receive fundinga nice amount of cash “to shift to sustainable transportation models and phase out the use of fossil fuels in buildings,” 19 other cities across the U.S. have also received funding. Many cities, including Portland, Oregon, and Atlanta, Georgia, will receive $2.5 million dollars towards environmentally friendly and sustainable policies.
What are Corporations Doing About Climate Change?
Some recognizable companies are taking climate change into account, while others are not.
CDP, the “Carbon Disclosure Project,” analyzes how large-scale companies are (or aren’t) implementing policies that lower carbon emissions, utilizing renewable energy, and more.
The well-known cosmetics company L’Oréal, between 2016-2017, scored an “A.” from the CDP, The company “has committed to ‘zero deforestation’ by 2020.” Additionally, L’Oréal “can trace back 91% of raw materials to the refinery level and 74% of raw materials to the palm oil-mills level.”
Two other companies, both in the automobile industry–Ford and Nissan–scored “A’s” for their water use. Ford, for example, implemented a system “for reporting their water use and adopting water saving initiatives in multi-year phases.” More information on the other companies can be found here.
While some companies have (at least) taken preliminary efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, the amount they’re spending on these efforts, compared to their overall spending, is relatively small. Oil companies, including Shell and BP, have pledged to “cut the ‘net carbon footprint of its energy products by around half by 2050,’” and “lower emissions of methane,” respectively. Considering that both companies have representatives lobbying against carbon emission regulations in the U.S., their actions could come across as contradictory.
What is evident moving forward, is that some states, and a fair number of municipalities, will uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, even though the President withdrew the U.S. from it.