The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week issued a report warning that only a dozen years remain for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. Beyond this figure, even half a degree will worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme temperatures and poverty for hundreds of millions of the world’s population.
While the IPCC’s report reiterates that the changes necessary to avoid this are within our reach, it also stresses that they will need to be enacted with urgency.
The report presents four routes to limiting global warming to 1.5C, pointing out new combinations of resource usage and technological change. Key among these are shifts towards electrical transport systems and increased adoption of carbon capture technology.
The IPCC stated that to achieve 1.5C, carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030, and reach zero by 2050. This comes as a sharp revision to the previous targets focused upon a 2C increase, which included a 20% cut to carbon pollution, and the aim of reaching zero by 2075.
The new outlook of 1.5C will reportedly require carbon prices (costs per tonne of avoided emissions) several times higher than the previous target stipulated, but the costs of not achieving it, in terms of the calamitous impact upon societies worldwide – not to mention the lasting harm being done to our environment – are almost incalculable.
Atte Palomäki, Executive VP Communications and Branding, Wärtsilä, put this into perspective for the marine industries: “We agree wholeheartedly with the IPCC’s findings. Within maritime shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) operates in the same direction. However, significant leaps in technology can be taken only when demand exists.”
Pointing out that Wärtsilä offers technology that reduces environmental impact – which could even be reduced further if utilised to its full potential, Palomäki sees the onus lying firmly on global decision makers.
“If this were only down to technological capabilities,” Palomäki states, “the objectives set by the IPCC would be attained. However, it is not that simple. Mostly it is dependent on how politicians choose to act upon these warnings. The political will for technological advancement leaves much to be desired.”
The IPCC’s report will be presented to governments at the UN climate conference in Poland later in 2018. Whether the swift and decisive response the report specifies will be forthcoming remains to be seen.