Climate change threatens to make the world “unrecognizable”

Unless there are unprecedented changes in all of our societies, climate change threatens to make the world “unrecognizable” by the end of the century. This is what emerges from a new infographic produced by the IPCC to illustrate the various warming scenarios we may face. A demonstration of the importance of making the right decisions for post-pandemic recovery, according to experts consulted by Le Devoir.

Two years after the publication of a report that called for decisive and swift action to limit the rise in the global thermometer, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Thursday published an illustration of three “scenarios Which show that the worst effects of climate change are likely to be felt in just a few years, unless there is “strong climate action” and widespread in the world.

According to the scenario which is based on a “late and uncoordinated action”, the warming will cause an increase in heat waves in “several cities” during the next decade, while the average rise in global temperatures could reach 1.5 ° C from 2030, compared to the pre-industrial era. However, this is the threshold not to be exceeded, according to the most ambitious objective of the Paris Agreement.

“Unrecognizable” world

The worst would come later, warns the IPCC, which points to an intensification of extreme weather events and heat waves that would lead to “fatal consequences” in the tropics. The rise in temperatures is likely to reach more than 3 ° C by 2100.

By the end of the century, the world as we know it would become downright “unrecognizable”, with “declining life expectancy” and “declining quality of life” in many parts of the world. The “state of health and well-being” of the population would thus be “substantially reduced”, compared to 2020, and this state would continue to deteriorate over the following decades “. The IPCC also warns of a “major” rise in food prices, conflicts and climate migration.

Even assuming “late”, but “decisive” action from 2025, we can expect “high costs” to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels and initiate the “energy transition”. And despite this, the IPCC predicts that global warming will exceed 2 ° C by 2050, leading in particular to an increase in episodes of drought, a decline in agricultural production and migration. Thus, the state of health and well-being would be reduced, compared to 2020, while “the levels of poverty and inequality increase considerably”.

Under this scenario, the loss of ecosystems would be very difficult to halt. The world’s coral reefs, for example, would be “wiped out” while tropical forests would be “severely damaged”. The global rate of species extinction would also increase significantly.

“Hasty and effective action”

According to the IPCC, whose reports serve as the scientific basis for global climate negotiations, only the scenario of “hasty and effective action” can save the furniture. However, this would require strong climate action at all levels of government, including in particular a very rapid decarbonization of the transport sector. Concretely, the majority of cars sold worldwide are expected to be electric by 2025.

We should also accelerate the development of still experimental technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, substantially reduce “food waste” and globally turn to a more plant-based diet, so as to reduce emissions related to production. of meat. Not to mention annual investments of $ 2,400 billion in energy transition each year by 2035.

The problem, underlines CÉRIUM fellow Hugo Séguin, is that the world is currently, at best, on the IPCC scenario providing for “late” but decisive action. But it is also possible, he said, that we are heading towards a worst-case scenario of climate disaster.

The economist François Delorme, who collaborates on the work of the IPCC, fears for his part that the worst-case scenario will materialize, due to the slowness of States to act to combat the climate crisis. “I believed for some time that the current crisis, which is unprecedented, would allow us to make the important decisions that are required. I no longer believe it. And the problem is that, the longer we wait, the more it will be costly ”to implement a sufficiently ambitious climate plan to avoid the worst.

Mr. Delorme noted in particular that in Canada, it seems certain that the growth of the oil and gas sector will be an integral part of economic recovery. He cites the government’s decision to speed up drilling in marine environments as an example. And according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, oil sands production is expected to increase significantly over the next decade, reaching 3.8 million barrels per day in 2030, or 1.1 million barrels more than production. before the crisis.

The color of the raise

Even though many fear that the health and economic crisis will relegate the climate issue far to the list of state priorities, Hugo Séguin nevertheless says he is convinced that the pandemic will not be the death sentence in the fight against climate change.

“Most of the big countries, like the OECD or China, know full well that it will take public money to get the economy going. There is going to be money available, but we have to ask ourselves what are we going to do with that money. What will be the color of the stimulus and investments? For example, are we going to produce more gas and oil? Within a year, we should have a good idea of ​​the color of this revival, ”explains the one who is also a lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke and a specialist in climate negotiations.

Of course, after the 2008-2009 crisis, the recovery was essentially built on a “business as usual” scenario. “But the world and technologies have evolved over the past 12 years,” insists Mr. Séguin. “I expect that the ‘green’ portion of the recovery plans will be much larger than it was at the end of this crisis,” he adds, affirming that the future is more than ever on the side of the “economy of climate solutions”.

Part of the answer could come from the next United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). This meeting, which has been postponed due to the pandemic, should normally allow the signatory countries of the Paris Agreement to announce more ambitious climate commitments. And despite the crisis, Hugo Séguin believes that several states should arrive at the table with revised targets, even if the possible implementation of these commitments will have to wait.

These improvements in greenhouse gas reduction targets serve to move closer to the central objective of the Paris Agreement, namely to maintain the predictable increase in temperature “well below 2 ° C compared to pre-industrial levels. “, While promising to” continue efforts to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 ° C “.

To hope to achieve this, the IPCC estimates that it will be necessary to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to the level of 2010, but also to bring emissions to zero by 2050. The scientific data available however indicate to us that we are currently far from the mark. While warming already exceeds 1 ° C, the commitments of States are leading the world to an average rise in temperatures of more than 3 ° C, the worst scenario detailed in the new infographic published Thursday by the IPCC.

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