A new report has issued updated information about our rapidly changing climate. A United Nations scientific panel on climate change recently released new findings, which indicate that the atmosphere will warm 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2040. This information is shocking to many scientists, who previously thought that we would not reach this level of warming until closer to the end of the 21st century. This leaves us very little time to severely cut down on carbon emissions to avoid devastation.
The scientists who authored the study encourage radically changing the world’s economy to avoid climate catastrophe. The rate of warming we are moving towards will cost upwards of $54 trillion, and could expand to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. They advise putting a steep price or tax on carbon emissions to dissuade industries from burning massive amounts of fossil fuels. However, the authors realize that given the current worldwide political climate, a steep carbon tax is unlikely. The United States has announced its plans to leave the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
Beyond purely economic effects, this extreme level of warming will result in devastating storms, severe flooding of coastlines, drought, and deadly heat waves and famine. The report found that should the level of warming surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius, possible carbon capture technology could lower it back down, but not without irreversible negative effects on our climate.
Written by: Isabelle Lieberman, class of 2021
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