We’ve crossed (another) serious climate change landmark
Our current generation of world leaders and heads of business are brilliant at paying lip service to climate change. In terms of actual results, however, those words lag some way behind actual behavioural change. Despite all the right noises being made in Paris just under a year ago, already this year we’ve missed our chance to limit temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees, and we’ve now passed another unfortunate milestone a week before the Paris agreement comes into force.
Well, technically we passed it last year, but the significance of it has only just been confirmed by a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Last year, for the first time in human history, atmospheric CO2 concentrations went over 400 parts per million (ppm), and the report suggests we won’t be seeing it drop any lower “for many generations”. The figure of 400ppm is significant because it’s a level of CO2 in the atmosphere that the Earth hasn’t seen for at least three million years. That was during the mid Pliocene, where sea levels were around 65 feet higher than they are now. (Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that you’re not currently up to your ankles in water. Dramatic sea level changes are coming, it’s just that the impact of a carbon-heavy atmosphere takes a while to kick in.)
“The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate-change reality, with record high greenhouse gas concentrations,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “The El Niño event has disappeared. Climate change has not.”
“Without tackling CO2 emissions, we can not tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2°C above the pre-industrial era,” he said. “It is therefore of the utmost importance that the Paris Agreement does indeed enter into force well ahead of schedule on 4 November and that we fast-track its implementation.”
The Paris climate deal comes into force next Friday, and is considerably more thorough than the Kyoto agreement, which had a patchy success rate. But the clock is ticking, and the Paris agreement’s “stretch goal” of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees is already a bust before it’s started, so things aren’t looking rosy.
Still, it could always be worse. Accentuate the positive, and all that.