Beyond the brink

time bomb by Dirk Knight via Flickr CC

When it comes to the climate crisis we’re not on the brink of disaster, we’re beyond the brink.

A “Synthesis Report” report released Monday from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also known as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) says the world is likely to miss its climate target — limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures — within a decade.

Climate change has already caused “substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, 36 freshwater, cryospheric, and coastal and open ocean ecosystems.”  Losses of species have been driven by increases in the magnitude of heat extremes with “mass mortality” events recorded on land and in the ocean, the report continues. Impacts on some ecosystems are “approaching Irreversibility,” such as the impacts of hydrological changes resulting from the retreat of glaciers, or the changes n some mountain and Arctic ecosystems driven by permafrost thaw.

Climate change has reduced food security and affected water security, “hindering efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals.”

All the widely documented impacts from human-caused climate change “continue to intensify,” the report says.

Humanity has reached a “critical moment in history,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee asserted: The world has all the knowledge, tools and financial resources needed to achieve its climate goals, but after decades of disregarding scientific warnings and delaying climate efforts, the window for action is rapidly closing.

At the current global pace of carbon emissions, the world will burn through its remaining “carbon budget” by 2030. Doing so would put the long-term goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) irrevocably out of reach. Keeping warming below th1.5 degrees Celsius threshold would help save the world’s coral reefs and preserve the Arctic’s protective sea ice layer. It could also stave off dramatic sea level rise by avoiding further destabilization in Antarctica and Greenland.

So we are all sitting on a powder keg, a loudly ticking time bomb, and while we may have the ability to defuse this bomb, can we do it?