Much has been said and written about the climate change crisis. Just about every story about fires in the West discusses the change, while we see increasingly violent weather patterns along the Gulf Coast and rising seas battering the coastal cities. The United Nations has now issued a landmark report, saying that we need to curb global emissions to avoid catastrophic warming. The report recommends that countries move away from burning fossil fuels before it causes irreparable damage.
“It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change,” says Ko Barrett, the vice-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the senior adviser for climate at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Each of the last four decades has been the warmest on record since preindustrial times.”
The report includes work from 200 leading climate scientists from around the world. It will subsequently be the focus of a global climate conference in November involving many of the world’s leaders. While this news sounds like more of the same, this report uses recent advances in climate research called attribution science. This approach ties specific weather events to global warming. It also states with certainty that warming over the past 50 years is higher than any similar period in the last 2,000 years.
Meeting the Paris Accord goals
Nonetheless, the scientists were optimistic that the world could meet the Paris Accord goal in the next two decades. “Is it still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees [Celsius]? The answer is yes,” says Maisa Rojas Corradi, a report author and climate scientist at the University of Chile. “But unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions of all greenhouse gases, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach.”
Louisianans will feel the impact
Global warming is an issue that affects all of us in one way or another. This is clear for those of us on the Gulf Coast, with coastal damage impacting perhaps half Louisiana. These increasingly erratic weather patterns will also affect the safety of those who work on the water, making it increasingly dangerous to do so. It will be essential that such industries as energy, fishing, and shipping plan for this reality to keep workers safe.