CLIMATE CHANGE

ALEX AWITI: Do we have the will to stop human-induced climate catastrophe?

The natural world without humans will do just fine.

In Summary

• In just three months the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations COP 26 climate conference.

• Are we willing to commit to aggressive emission greenhouse emission reductions?

Image: OZONE

You walk into your doctor’s clinic. She takes one more look at your file. She closes the file sits upright on her seat and looks you straight in the eye and says not good.

Then your doctor orders as follows: You must change many things going forward — lose weight, change your diet and exercise more. The report released August 9 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is analogous to a physician – patient conversation.

The report warns of more extreme droughts, flooding, heatwaves and a key temperature limit being breached in just over a decade. According to the report, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the last 2,000 years. According to the report, the world will likely reach 1.5 Celsius warming limit by 2041.

Sea level rise has tripled compared with 1901 to 1971 levels. Moreover, the past five years have been the hottest since 1850. There is high confidence that CO2 concentrations were higher in 2019 than at any time in the last 2 million years. Moreover, the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

The sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is thundering in its clarity; observed increases in greenhouse gas concentrations since around 1750 are unequivocally caused by human activities. The scale of recent changes across the climate system and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.

Climate change is already affecting every region across the globe with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes. Moreover, the report reaffirms with high confidence that there is a near-linear relationship between cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the global warming they cause.

According to the IPCC report achieving global net zero CO2 emissions is a requirement for stabilizing CO2 – induced global surface temperature increase. Scenarios with very low or low greenhouse gas emissions lead within years to discernable positive effects relative to high emission scenarios.

Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific studies, the IPCC report gives the most reliable and detailed picture of how human-induced climate change is irreversibly altering the natural world. The report also offers dire warning of what lies ahead. But will the world heed the warning? Like the physician – patient conversation, is the patient willing to make fundamental changes in their lifestyle?

In just three months the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations COP 26 climate conference. Are we willing to commit to aggressive emission greenhouse emission reductions? Can we commit to firm timelines, within the next decade, to achieve net zero CO2 emissions? Can we agree to leave fossil fuels underground, where they rightfully belong?

In the words of UN Secretary General, “The alarm bells are deafening”. But collectively we are unwilling to listen and to act decisively to save our kind. As I have said before, the natural world without humans will do just fine.

Alex O. Awiti is Vice Provost at The Aga Khan University. Views expressed are the writer’s