No region, no population, no sea on Earth is safe from the damage that climate change currently causes. Rising sea levels, heat waves, droughts and storms “unprecedented in centuries” are “unequivocally” associated with human activities that cause global warming, according to the latest scientific assessment by the International Panel of Experts, the IPCC.
Scientists warn that only urgent measures in the next decade will curb the worst of climate change
This “physics-based” report should, in theory, serve to guide climate policies. The group of 240 scientists from 66 countries has verified that the alteration of the climate caused by humanity has reached such inertia that “global temperature will continue to increase until the middle of the 21st century” and that the objective of the Paris Agreement to contain this overheating at 2 or 1.5ºC this century will be exceeded “unless there are profound reductions in the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the coming decades”. This work is commissioned by governments registered with the UN to offer the best scientific evidence on the state and modification of the climate.
One of the report’s writers, the CEO of Carbon Project, Pep Canadell, summarizes for elDiario.es: “Nobody is safe. We have verified that the warming and acidification of the oceans has already reached more than 2,000 meters of depth ”. And he adds that “there is no doubt that the accumulated warming so far is due to human activities. The IPCC had never said that specifically before ”. The report states that “human influence has altered the climate at an unprecedented rate in the last 2,000 years.”
And, as the climate changes, “we will experience unprecedented episodes in terms of their magnitude, frequency, period and location ”, that is to say, larger, more common and at times and places where they did not occur before.
Canadell highlights that this document “goes from the abstract to the tangible, to what directly affects people.” Droughts that worsen crops, storms that cause floods, the heat waves that kill thousands of people and ignite super forest fires in almost unimaginable times and latitudes.
Virtually all geographic regions into which the UN divides the world map have seen extreme heat deteriorate and the relationship of this change to human activities. 41 of 45 regions are in the red zone. The Mediterranean region in which Spain is located has worsened and with the highest scientific probability that it is due to human-induced warming.
Also 19 world regions suffer greater torrential rains (in this case the Mediterranean that ranges from Spain to Turkey shows a low agreement on the exchange rate that it affects). No region has decreased in this risk and data is lacking in another 18.
Regarding agricultural and ecological droughts, the analysis explains that there is little agreement or little data for 32 regions. Of the rest, all but one show a worse outlook than 15 years ago. Among those that have increased their droughts and with greater probability that this phenomenon is exacerbated by the “human contribution”, appears the Mediterranean region.
Although the climate crisis is a planetary phenomenon, it impacts differently depending on the area of the world that is observed. In the Mediterranean region, scientists have found the increase in droughts and foresee an increase in aridity and the conditions for fires with a warming of 2ºC (accepted by the Paris Agreement). There is high certainty that Spain must prepare for a disastrous combination of “extreme temperatures, decreased rainfall, increased aridity, loss of snow and average and maximum rise in sea level.”
Any temperature limit requires “net zero emissions”
The IPCC notes that this drift means that extremes “not experienced in the past” will take place in different ways. For example, rising sea levels will cause sea floods in cities that previously did not have this danger. Large forest fires are devastating hundreds of thousands of hectares in Arctic areas where, until now, the probability of these disasters “was four times less.”
Many aspects of the climate respond quickly to a rise in global temperature. Currently, the planet is 1.1ºC degrees higher than it was in 1850-1900. That makes the hottest days of each decade, on average, 1.2 degrees higher now. Droughts have multiplied by two and torrential rains by 1.3. On a planet 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer, those torrid days will go to almost two degrees and droughts will increase 2.4 times. There would be 10% more intense cyclones. In the maximum limit set in the Paris Agreement of 2ºC of extra heat, record days will mark 2.6ºC higher temperatures, three times as many droughts and almost twice as many torrential storms will be suffered.
Canadell also warns that the situation has reached a point where “the intensification and frequency of these disasters are going to increase very significantly, almost whatever we do, until the middle of the century. Then it can be stopped if there are fewer emissions ”. How many less? “Any stabilization of the climate requires achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.” And take a good bite out of other gases such as methane (CH4) or nitrogen dioxide (NOx).
Consequences of burning fossil fuel at full speed
The accumulation of data and evidence that testifies to how it is alternating and the climate and its consequences for all populations does not stop growing. This review shows that “greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for at least 1.1ºC of the warming generated on Earth since 1900 and concludes that“ the global temperature in the next 20 is expected to exceed, on average, the 1.5ºC ”. “We have a much more realistic image, which is essential to understand where we are going, what we can do and how to prepare ourselves”, summarized the co-director of the group of experts, Valérie Masson-Delmotte.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere that has generated the burning of fossil fuels has caused the surface temperature to have warmed from 1970 to 2020 more rapidly than in any other 50-year period in the last two millennia. The frozen surface in the Arctic between 2011 and 2020 reaches the lowest average since at least 1850. The retreat at the same time that the terrestrial glaciers suffer has not occurred for 2,000 years.
And to top it all, mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than in any other century in the last three millennia. The record in 3,000 years.
The worst thing is that “many of the changes due to past and future emissions are already irreversible for centuries or even millennia”. The sea level will continue to rise safely during this century, whatever the scenario analyzed: with few, medium or high CO2 emissions. In the best of cases, the rise to 2100 will be between 28 and 58 centimeters and if emissions remain high the level would go to more than one meter above that registered between 1994 and 2014.
In the long term, the sea will maintain that growth for thousands of years from now due to the warming of the ocean and the melting of ice. “In the next 2,000 years the sea will rise 2 or 3 meters if global warming is limited to 1.5ºC, it will reach 2-6 meters if it stops at 2ºC.” The researcher Canadell adds here that “nobody cares what is going to happen in such a long time. There are more pressing problems now. But it explains the scope of what is being produced: in a hundred years it has determined how the coasts of the planet will be shaped for the next two millennia ”.