The U.N. report on climate change released this week is being referred to as a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It warns the world is expected to hit the critical warming threshold by 2030.
“Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast,” said António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General. “Humans are responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years. The rate of temperature rise in the last half-century is the highest in 2000 years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least two million years.
The report said temperatures are estimated to rise 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial times in the next decade. That could cause a chain of climate disasters, including the acceleration of sea-level rise, coastal flooding, heat waves, and stronger hurricanes.
“There could be unprecedented significant changes to humans and also nature,” said Jayantha T. Obeysekera, director of The Sea Level Solutions Center at Florida International University. “We could lose a lot of species. It might not be a world that we know about, it might be very different. That is why it’s important to try to maintain that [critical warming] threshold.”
Obeysekera agreed that while developed countries have had the most impact, developing nations are the ones already suffering from climate change — and the ones will be ultimately more impacted since they have fewer resources to deal with the consequences.
“As we are changing temperatures,” said James W. Fourqurean, professor and associate director of Institute of Environment at FIU. “We’re changing the circulation of the ocean and also changing the circulation of the atmosphere. We’re inducing change into a system that humans evolved in and our political structures evolved in. People generally live where there’s enough food and water, and that distribution was driven by the preindustrial world distribution of rainfall.”
He explained that in smaller countries where climate change can affect the country as a whole, there is a possibility that almost everyone would have to relocate to find essential resources.
“In developing world countries they grow most of their own food,” said Fourqurean. “A lot of those are in areas that are water-stressed already. Just a little bit of change in rainfall could lead to mass famine in places where there are not enough resources to buy food from elsewhere.”
According to the U.N., the world already has all the tools and alternative energy sources to prevent the situation from getting worse but countries are yet to implement these changes. Among these proposed changes is a requirement that developed countries such as the United States eliminate carbon emissions by 2040, a decade ahead of the rest of the world.
The report highlights that while we have reached a critical time for climate change, it is still possible to hold global warming to safe levels. But nations will need to immediately transition away from fossil fuels.