Decarbonization Must Treble to Keep Up With Climate Change

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CC BY 2.0. Cameron Strandberg

Progress is being made. But the climate keeps unravelling.

Writing for TreeHugger can be an emotional rollercoaster. On the one hand, we see countries achieving Victorian-era emissions, coal miners embracing a transition to renewables, and electrification of transportation nipping away at Big Oil from almost every direction. On the other hand, the impacts of climate change are making themselves known in more obvious and sometimes terrifying ways than ever before.

As many people smarter than me have argued, the question now is not whether we will decarbonize, but rather whether we will do so fast enough to stave off the worst impacts of the damage we have already wrought. The newly released 2018 Emissions Gap Report from the UN Environment Program suggests the trajectory is not promising.

The report focuses specifically on the gap in 2030 between emission levels if all countries live up to their currently publicized commitments, and those consistent with least-cost pathways to stay below 2°C and 1.5°C. Among its findings is an eye opening conclusion that both ambition and action need to treble, and that's just to remain consistent with a two degree scenario. To stay below 1.5°C, we actually need to pick up the pace some five fold in order to succeed.

Following hot on the heels of an IPCC report suggesting we have 12 years to halve our emissions, and another from the US government (weirdly released over the Thanksgiving holiday) suggesting our economy will suffer significant damage if we don't act now, there's nothing particularly surprising about this report. But it is nevertheless galvanizing.

It's time to pick up the pace, people. And it's time to sideline those who still waffle on about "belief" and "non-belief" in an objective and very dangerous reality that is unfolding before our eyes.