1. Update
  2. Environment & Energy

New IPCC Report Offers Stark Warning on the Climate Crisis

By Milo Keller, October 11, 2018

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a landmark report on the levels of warming our planet can safely withstand and the steps we will need to take to avert a climate crisis. The prognosis is even worse than many had previously thought.

“The report is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, a physicist with the nonprofit Climate Analytics and a co-author of previous IPCC reports. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.”

In a departure from previous climate research, the report detailed extreme impacts by 2040 if global temperatures were to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. Previous research had estimated similar damages if temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius.

Unless we drastically curb emissions, we are on pace to meet or exceed that 2-degree rise. The earth has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the 19th century. And while the difference between 2 degrees and 1.5 degrees might seem small, a global shift of half a degree could have profound consequences.

Half a degree of additional warming would expose tens of millions more people to potentially lethal heat waves, flooding, and droughts. It could mean the world’s coral reefs dying out and Arctic summer sea ice completely melting. Polar bears, whales, and sea birds would lose crucial habitat. Crop yields would decrease the world over.

The action that needs to be taken to stave off this terrifying outcome must be drastic. “There is no documented historical precedent” for the level of action needed, said the IPCC report. Oxford University climate scientist Myles Allen explained, “We need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime.”

Many actions must be taken that are politically difficult to achieve in the United States. One is the near complete elimination of coal from our energy mix. Another is taxing carbon emissions, which the IPCC stated “is central to prompt mitigation.”

A tax on carbon is considered by many to be politically toxic, as it represents an increase in taxes and energy prices, both of which have traditionally been opposed by Republican legislators. But this policy solution has recently seen growing support from both political parties.

FCNL has been encouraged by new Congressional GOP leadership on climate issues. Recently, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) introduced the first Republican comprehensive climate legislation in almost a decade. His proposed MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463) prices carbon emissions at $24 per ton.

While the MARKET CHOICE Act will not drive emissions down to the levels ultimately needed, it represents an important step in the right direction. The legislation would allow the U.S. to exceed its original commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and seeks to reduce emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2032. It is a critical signal that more Republicans are willing to take meaningful action on climate issues.

FCNL looks forward to continuing to work with legislators on both sides of the isle to pass significant and lasting legislation to protect our climate. Such bipartisan efforts are critical. As Hans-Otto Porter who helped write the IPCC report said, “every extra bit of warming makes a difference.

Milo Keller

  • Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy and Environment

Milo Keller served as the Program Assistant for Sustainable Energy and Environment for 2018-2019.