ANALYSIS

Heatwaves and hope: The message from the IPCC climate report

The latest IPCC report warns about the risk of more frequent extreme weather events - including bushfires - if global warming isn't contained. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
The latest IPCC report warns about the risk of more frequent extreme weather events - including bushfires - if global warming isn't contained. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

But read between its many explicit and alarming references to the threat of increasingly prevalent heatwaves, fires, floods, droughts and rising sea levels, and the message, if not the word, is there in bold.

Hope.

There is still hope. It is not too late.

The latest IPCC report doesn't sign the planet's death warrant. It doesn't condemn the planet to a climate catastrophe that cannot be avoided.

Instead, it sets in lights - in a very scientific fashion - how what some have considered a tragic inevitability could be averted.

The climate experts who collaborated on the report used the best available science to model five scenarios for the future of the planet, based on different levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, in essence, presents global leaders - including Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison - with five alternate futures.

Pick your path, pick your destiny.

The path of highest pollution would be deadly, potentially leading to global average temperatures more than 5 degree celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. For context, the Paris Agreement aims to keep warming to "well below" 2 degrees.

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At the other end of the spectrum, the IPCC report projects that if the global economy reaches carbon neutrality around 2050 and then starts to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere then temperature rise could eventually be contained below 1.5 degrees.

That would be, from where things stand in 2021, a crisis contained, if not averted.

The report and its authors make clear that humans have caused global warming. It is now up to those those in positions of power - including Mr Morrison - to make decisions that help bring it under control.

Immediate, rapid and large-scale cuts to greenhouse gas emissions might be needed to avert disaster.

But all is not lost.

There is still hope.

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This story Heatwaves and hope: The message from the IPCC climate report first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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