We Are at a Crossroads in Global Warming

Humans, the main culprit in global warming, are at a crossroads in reviewing their environmental policies. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”, humanity is undoubtedly causing global warming and permanently worsening the condition of the planet. The report, supported by 195 governments, means a red code for humanity with the implication that some climate impacts are at risk of being irreversible. The increase in devastating natural disasters such as forest fires, droughts and floods is also a shocking reminder to humanity of the adverse effects of climate change.

Humanity is now seeing the impacts of climate change more frequently. Temperatures are rising, precipitation cycles are getting different, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising worldwide.  Much of the warming is due to observed increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations as a result of emissions from human activities. While reducing and preventing these emissions is essential to mitigating the effects of climate change, the report, “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”, approved by 234 scientists and 195 governments, notes that the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations began in the 1750s, causing climate change in the ongoing process. The report, which to UN Secretary-General António Guterres means a “red alert for humanity,” includes scenarios and implications for global warming, as well as a number of findings.

The Zero Emissions Roadmap Should Be Implemented Immediately

The warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (IPCC) point to more serious issues in the light of the report.  According to the report, the planet’s climate has changed on a large scale due to human activities, and some of these effects appear to be irreversible. According to the IPCC analyses, there are no scenarios in which the threshold of 1.5°C is not exceeded. Even in the most ambitious scenario, once this threshold is crossed, the average temperature will not fall to 1.4°C until the end of the century. But to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C, governments must halve their emissions by 2030. For this reason, climate plans must be more ambitious and net-zero emission roadmaps must become the focus of rapid efforts for reduction of emissions. However, even if emissions of harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are radically reduced, it does not seem possible to prevent the temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. The IPCC warns that 2°C of global warming will be exceeded in the 21st century if nothing is done. The report notes that without rapid and deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement “will not be possible.”

Global Warming at an Unprecedented Level

Some other prominent findings in the IPCC report are as follows:

  • The temperature on the Earth’s surface was 1.09°C higher between 2011 and 2020 than between 1850 and 1900.
  • The last five years have been the warmest on record since 1850.
  • Recently, sea level rise has almost tripled compared to the period between 1901 and 1971.
  • The primary driver of global glacier melt and ice shrinkage in the Arctic sea has been human impact by 90 percent since the 1990s.
  • It is almost certain that extreme heat, including heat waves, has become more commonplace and intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less common and less severe.
  • The last rise in the Earth’s surface temperature above 2.5°C (compared to pre-industrial levels) lasted more than 3 million years. The warming of the planet is therefore on an unprecedented scale.
  • If we want to stop warming, decision makers must implement net-zero emissions plans. In 2019, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was higher than at any time in 2 million years. Concentrations of the important greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, were higher than at any time in the 800,000-year period.
  • The global average sea level rise has increased faster since 1900 than at any time in the last 3000 years. The frequency of occurrence of marine heat waves has doubled since the 1980s.
  • In this context, because of the uncertainty with ice sheet processes, it bears noting in the framework of rising emissions that sea level rise on a global scale is above the possible range of 2 meters in 2100 and up to 5 meters in 2150.
  • Much of our world is exposed to extreme heat, which includes heat waves.

Increasing clean technology, clean energy, and forestlands

While the IPCC report focuses more on the downside of warming, scientists hope we can halt and possibly reverse the temperature rise if we can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by the middle of this century. For this to happen, however, the necessary steps must be initiated and unequivocally implemented. To achieve the net zero target, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced as much as possible with clean technology, and then the remaining emissions must be buried with carbon capture and storage technologies or absorbed by planting trees. Increasing reforestation efforts around the world is also a key strategy.

We need to Completely Overhaul our Environmental Policies

If current climate policies are maintained, global warming will reach 2.7°C by 2100, according to the most optimistic forecasts. This means that the future of humanity is threatened in many aspects, from the devastating effects of natural disasters to mass migrations and health problems. Large forest fires, floods in Europe and China, heat waves in North America, and extreme drought in Madagascar are just a few concrete examples of this situation.

As some scientists say, it is possible to reverse this bad trend, if not completely. In order to protect our future, it is now an unavoidable priority for us to respond to scientists’ call and completely revise our environmental policies…

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