Environmentalists call for Parliamentary debate over IPCC “1.5 degrees Celsius” report

According to TimesLIVE an environmental group is calling for Parliament to debate the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We believe this report needs to be deliberated through an emergency sitting of parliament as it impacts on the future of all human and non-human life forms in South Africa and on the planet‚” The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre’s board chairperson Vishwas Satgar said in an open letter.

The gist of the IPCC report is that if we managed to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, we’d have a much better world than at the previously agreed upon 2 degrees Celsius.

At the rate the world is going however, we can expect to hit that 1.5 degree Celsius  increase by some time between 2030 and 2052.

In July Weather SA tweeted that there was a 70% likelihood of us hitting an El Nino event from mid spring into summer. What that would mean is – a return to the drought that nearly led to Cape Town running out of water.

We’ve already seen this events happen more and more, and the last La Nina, which is the opposite, didn’t go on for nearly as long.

So far for us, climate change has meant drought, and this latest report from the IPCC suggests that if we could keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius, there would be less of those than at 2 degrees Celsius.

According to UCT in 2017: “South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions comprise 1.1% of global emissions, but our GDP is only 0.6% of global GDP. South Africa’s emissions per capita are above the G20 average, whereas our development level (measured by the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index) is below the G20 average.”

Fighting climate change isn’t going to be an easy task. According to a study from Indiana University, published in Nature: Ecology and Evolution, we cannot rely as much on plants to leech as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere going forward.

The problem is that as the climate warms, plants in areas which don’t get fertiliser, are getting less nitrogen – which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide they can absorb.

My Take

It is all very well to say it would be better to keep climate change below that 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, but right now America is being run by Donald Trump.

Earlier this month The Guardian reported on Trump’s new position on climate change, as expressed in an interview on 60 Minutes. He thinks it isn’t manmade, and will change back again.

“I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

Now consider Trump’s defense of Saudi Arabia after it murdered a journalist in Turkey.

“I don’t want to lose all of that investment being made into our country. I don’t want to lose a million jobs, I don’t want to lose $110 billion dollars in terms of investment,” Trump said according to CNN.

Trump is somebody who believes things that are convenient to him for as long as he can get away with it. That is why he thinks climate scientists are politically motivated, because that’s how he thinks.

And of course just what the heck the scientists are supposed to get out of this is just vague grants as if we wouldn’t still be studying the climate if it wasn’t changing. I mean, we’d want to understand the climate anyway even if it was just to better predict weather events.

So what does this have to do with South Africa? The fact is that the biggest road block to climate action has historically been the US, and while the US Is only the second largest emitter, a lot of American companies are involved in issues such as the Indonesian palm sugar industry for example.

That industry puts out an incredible amount of carbon dioxide because of the way rain forests have been burnt out to grow palm sugar.

So without America’s buy-in global action on climate change is very difficult, and this is a global issue that requires cooperation between all nations to solve. Not only that, but America digging its heels in leads to other nations compromising their own responses.

Which means that while I think we should be doing our bit to reduce our emissions, any plans we have for climate change have to take into account the likelihood that whatever we do as a nation on our own we are going to have to survive it.

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