Global climate change is affecting our planet but it is difficult for people to see the effects over just a few years because the process takes a long time. This is not a not far-fetched phenomenon as the world has seen wild climate events that destroyed cities, livelihoods and most importantly life (animal life included).

Africa’s already high rates of under nutrition and low water supply & quality can be expected to increase compared to a scenario without climate change. To be specific, particularly vulnerable to these climatic changes are the rain-fed agricultural systems on which the livelihoods of a large proportion of the region’s population
currently depend.

On Monday climate experts, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the much anticipated IPCC report. This report is a progress report following the decision on the adoption of the Paris Agreement, by the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 21st Session in Paris, France (30 November to 11 December 2015). They invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

The report make it crystal clear what is at stake, and no government can justifiably say the case hasn’t been made for strong and urgent action. Without further action, temperatures will increase from about four to five per cent compared with pre-industrial levels. Even a slight change in this could be fatal and this could see the loss of life, it could lead to the extinction of some species. However the only thing that’s standing in the way is political will and lack of international unity, as shown in the paragraph below.

Upon election as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the USA out of the Paris accord. This decision as surprising as it was, it was met with criticism by the rest of the world. A stark warning was given by the former UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon, who stated that “he is standing on the wrong side of history because his vision was politically short-sighted, and economically irresponsible and scientifically wrong”. This stance was virtually an attack on efforts to address climate change that governments have been working on for so long. The world does not need this at a time like this.

What happens when temperatures rise above 1.5°C?

Carbon Brief created an excellent interactive page detailing the differences in climate impacts between 1.5°C and 2°C, based on 70 peer-reviewed studies.  Generally speaking, the IPCC report finds that “Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.

The IPCC report concludes that a world with 2°C of global warming will lead to more heat-related deaths, smaller crop yields, worse extreme weather events, slower economic growth, more people in poverty, and increase the population facing water stress by up to 50% compared to a 1.5°C world.  And the impacts will get progressively worse if temperatures warm beyond the 2°C limit.

At the national level, fighting climate change means making drastic changes in how we generate electricity, how we get around everyday. According to the report almost 80 per cent of the emissions growth between 1970 and 2010 was caused by fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. To reach the 2 °C target, the experts warned that the global energy supply must dramatically change, with at least a tripling of the use of “zero and low-carbon” energy, such as renewables or switching to wind and solar power,

Governments have to act fast, the scientist submitted their findings through the IPCC report and what remains to be seen is whether they will enact policies that are responsive to the warnings that have been given. The report is helpful in that it also seeks to give assistance and direction on strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

What do we take away from the report?

The take-home message is that the faster we cut carbon pollution, the less severe impacts we’ll face. We’re not yet doing nearly enough, although the Paris agreement was an important first step, and countries that withdraw from it should become international pariahs. It is still not too late to act and mitigate, but that action has to be done as soon as yesterday to prevent the worst-case scenario. The report can be equated to a suspended sentence, the crime been, emitting more than the earth can handle and the sentence been a warming earth that will become uninhabitable and eventually expire.

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