Climate Change Report Actually Understates Threats

“Dire as it is, the latest IPCC report is actually too optimistic,” writes Slashdot reader Dan Drollette. “It ignores the risk of self-reinforcing climate feedbacks pushing the planet into chaos beyond human control. So says a team of climate experts, including the winner of the 1995 Nobel for his work on depletion of the ozone layer.” From their article: These cascading feedbacks include the loss of the Arctic’s sea ice, which could disappear entirely in summer in the next 15 years. The ice serves as a shield, reflecting heat back into the atmosphere, but is increasingly being melted into water that absorbs heat instead. Losing the ice would tremendously increase the Arctic’s warming, which is already at least twice the global average rate. This, in turn, would accelerate the collapse of permafrost, releasing its ancient stores of methane, a super climate pollutant 30 times more potent in causing warming than carbon dioxide.

By largely ignoring such feedbacks, the IPCC report fails to adequately warn leaders about the cluster of six similar climate tipping points that could be crossed between today’s temperature and an increase to 1.5 degrees — let alone nearly another dozen tipping points between 1.5 and 2 degrees. These wildcards could very likely push the climate system beyond human ability to control. As the UN Secretary General reminded world leaders last month, “We face an existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are.⦠If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences.”

In related news, a court in The Hague “has upheld a historic legal order on the Dutch government to accelerate carbon emissions cuts, a day after the world’s climate scientists warned that time was running out to avoid dangerous warming. Appeal court judges ruled that the severity and scope of the climate crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020 — measured against 1990 levels — higher than the 17% drop planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration. The ruling — which was greeted with whoops and cheers in the courtroom — will put wind in the sails of a raft of similar cases being planned around the world, from Norway to New Zealand and from the UK to Uganda.”

Meanwhile, a new article in GQ cites estimates that more than 70 percent of global emissions come from just 100 companies, complaining that “there is no ‘free market’ incentive to prevent disaster.”