Call it a good news/bad news report on climate change.
The good news? The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report this week said rapid changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could slow down catastrophic warming. That’s the good news.
The bad news? The report says rapid change would slow down the catastrophic warming.
Chances are we’re going to do nothing, or little enough to be called nothing, so catastrophic warming is our likely future.
The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air, not just slowing down the increases.
The consequences for failing to do so will be deadly for many and very, very expensive for pretty much everybody.
That reality is the impetus for the Partnering with Nature to Heal the Biosphere event next week. A project begun by the late Michael Purves-Smith, the initiative was picked up by family and friends interested in combating climate change.
Expecting action on a wider scale, especially by governments of the biggest polluters, is likely beyond the pale, and the possibility of drastic steps within the next 12 years – the 2030 deadline identified in the IPCC report – is close enough to zero to be called zero.
That means we’ll end up dealing with much more extreme weather – droughts, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes – and the deaths, displacement and financial losses that comes with it.
We’re already seeing the impacts of the warmest weather on record. Even in the area, where the impacts are expected to be somewhat more muted, we’re seeing weather events more pronounced than in the past, along with sudden fluctuations.
We’re not to confuse today’s weather with the big picture of climate, but every anomaly adds to the evidence.
If climate models are on target, we can expect more extreme weather days ahead, even putting aside the human contribution to global warming/climate change.
These changes would significantly decrease the duration of the annual snow season and lengthen the growing season. They could increase the frequency and severity of extreme heat events in summer.
If the models hold, we can expect more than just rising temperatures. Greater impacts could include changes in precipitation patterns, in soil moisture, and possibly in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events.
Changes in weather patterns may affect the frequency and intensity of pollution episodes.
Additional damage to forest ecosystems by pests and diseases, and increased frequency and intensity of fires may occur. Species currently threatened with extinction face the greatest risk of extinction in a changing climate.
Ontario falls prey to a number of natural hazards: drought, heat waves, floods, rain, snow and ice storms, tornadoes, and even hurricanes, although they’re rare. Small changes in average climate conditions are expected to generate significant changes in extreme events. Experts anticipate fewer extremely cold days and more extremely hot days and more severe thunderstorms, which can cause injury and property damage.
While things are projected to get worse, there has already been an uptick in weather-related disasters across the country, particularly floods. That comes with a human toll, and a large hit to the wallet.