In my previous article – Indisputable Facts On Climate Change – I addressed some of the things we know to be true as it relates to carbon dioxide and global temperatures. Note that I didn’t try to connect any number of potential threads, nor make dire predictions. My article was based on facts, period.
In today’s article, I want to take another step and address the stakes, according to a recent report on global warming. But mostly I will focus on potential methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or for preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
The Stakes Are High
In October 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a Special Report on Global Warming. The report reiterated the urgent need to limit rising global temperatures but admitted that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Various agreements, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, have had some success in curbing regional carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries. However, global emissions continued to rise. More recently, the 196 parties attending the 21st yearly Climate Change Conference (COP 21) negotiated the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to “well below 2 °Celsius” compared to pre-industrial levels.
This week – three years later – the COP 24 convenes in Poland from December 3rd-14th. Attendees will tout measures aimed at reining in carbon dioxide emissions, but multiple agencies, such as the International Energy Agency’s (IEA), have warned that even if the pledges made as part of the 2015 Paris Accord are enacted into binding laws, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to meet the global temperature target.
The IPCC warns that the world has already warmed by about 1°C, negatively impacting the ecosystem, exacerbating rising sea levels, and contributing to increasingly destructive hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires.
Most commercially successful efforts to date have focused on adopting lower-carbon energy sources and utilizing energy more efficiently. The dramatic increase in global wind and solar power are examples of success in displacing carbon-based energy sources.
That said, much of the world continues to burn fossil fuels. Developing areas like the Asia Pacific region still rely heavily on coal for power production. This is a key reason emissions in these areas continue to grow rapidly, and now account for 2/3rds of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Tensions between the conflicting priorities of emissions reductions and baseload energy needs have played out in debates over international funding for fossil fuel projects. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim admitted last month that he had received push-back from African leaders who accuse the Bank of “telling us we can’t develop and have baseload energy because we can’t use a single drop of fossil fuel for our own energy needs.”