October 7, 2018

The most important scientific report ever? Probably.




The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C — which drops tomorrow — is not called special for nothing. Some forecasts have us exceeding Earth’s budget for preventing 1.5°C of warming (relative to our pre-industrial era) in as little as three more years. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, wrote a paper last year titled exactly that: Three years to safeguard our climate. It can also be put down as the reason why people in the climate space appear a little exasperated when they try to articulate the speed at which the transition to a low-carbon economy has got to take place.

The immensity of the IPCC undertaking

The IPCC is an organisation made up of an extraordinary kaleidoscope of individuals. From every corner of the globe, these scientists volunteer hundreds of hours of their time to assess the degree and extent of our changing climate. They do this for the benefit of us humans. They also do it for the benefit of our future prosperity. And what they say this week has to be taken seriously by every policymaker on the face of the planet. Of course, it will be taken seriously by those already urgently trying to recruit the indifferent to this cause. But for the vast majority — including the Donald, including Australia, including the willingly blind — it will merely register as just another “According to a new report by the bla bla bla…”

But this one really is different — so it’s important we talk about it in those terms. Once the report becomes publicly available, I will follow up on the above with a similar infographic detailing the (sobering) verdict. Until then, it’d be great to counter the “spiral of silence” that surrounds climate change and get word out about how important this one truly is.

And for a bit more context, below is a brilliant video about our 1.5°C budget by the talented Rosamund Pearce, of Carbon Brief. She’s got mad skills:

Note: The carbon budget used for this Carbon Brief video was based on estimates made in the IPCC’s fifth assessment report. The IPCC has raised the budget for a 66% chance of avoiding 1.5°C to 10 years of current emissions. Similarly, the budget for a 50/50 chance of exceeding 1.5°C has increased to 14 years of current emissions.