In two separate reports in the last week, the Climate News Network emphasized climate scientists’ growing belief that a 1.5°C increase in average global temperatures can no longer be avoided, partly because a warming Arctic is changing faster than they can keep track.
“Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated,” said Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who stressed that current climate mitigation efforts will have to double or triple just to avoid exceeding a 2°C limit on average warming.
But “scientists say the public has misunderstood the imminent dangers of climate change, believing that it will happen sometime in the future rather than now,” Climate News reports. And “large numbers of people have been misled into believing that economic growth can only be achieved by burning coal, gas, and oil.”
The researchers conclude “that propaganda by the fossil fuel lobby and failure of politicians to take action in the last 10 years means changes in lifestyles and radical action will be needed if catastrophe is to be avoided,” reports correspondent Paul Brown. The alternative is “a stark picture of rising temperatures causing floods and wildfires, food and water shortages, damage to human health, and widespread disruption of services and destruction of roads, railways, bridges, and buildings.”
The scientists base their pessimism about the 1.5°C long-term target developed at the Paris conference on the reality that “the full effects of the greenhouse gases emitted in 2016 will only be felt in 2030,” Brown writes. That means average temperatures are “certain to rise another half a degree by 2030,” drastic action will be needed to keep 2050 temperatures within the 2°C limit, and global emissions must reach net zero between 2060 and 2075—ultimately by finding some means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Watson and his colleagues reported that the Arctic has already warmed by 4°C, in the same week that the World Meteorological Organization concluded that changes in the region are moving faster than scientists can keep track—and shifting weather patterns around the world.
“Dramatic and unprecedented warming in the Arctic is driving sea level rise, affecting weather patterns around the world, and may trigger even more changes in the climate system,” the WMO reported. “The rate of change is challenging the current scientific capacity to monitor and predict what is becoming a journey into uncharted territory.”
WMO President David Grimes, speaking to a White House Science Ministerial on Arctic science collaboration, warned that “the Arctic is a principal, global driver of the climate system and is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change with consequences far beyond its boundaries.” He added that “changes in the Arctic are serving as a global indicator—like a canary in the coal mine—and are happening at a much faster rate than we would have expected.”