IPCC Report

Climate alert: who will save us from the announced drama?

Perhaps it will be necessary to remember this day on Monday, October 8, 2018. It began with the publication of a 400-page paving stone: the report of the IPCC, the international organization that monitors our climate. Its verdict is a warning shot: the climate is running amok and if nothing is done we are heading straight - and much faster than expected - towards disaster. IPCC climatologists are worried but they are trying to be optimistic: there are still things to be done to avoid a fatal collision. Both individual and governmental measures can be taken. A little hope. Very small.
On the same day, the Nobel Academy handed down its verdict and awarded two American Nobel Prize winners in economics for their work on the relationship between climate and finance. According to them, it is the market that will save us from the announced catastrophe. A little more liberal capitalism, technological innovation and globalisation and we will be saved, and incidentally, enriched by the fight against climate change. But to which saint should we dedicate ourselves?
Ae report of the IPCC published on 8 October describes in great detail the threat of runaway warming above 1.5°C (compared to pre-industrial levels): heatwaves, species extinctions, destabilisation of the polar ice caps with the resultant rise in the oceans, flooding, disappearance of thousands of kilometres of coastline, endangering millions of people all over the planet. Climatologists had calculated that the 1.5° threshold could be exceeded in several decades. That gave us a bit of time to breathe a sigh of relief. False hope, because the deadline may be shorter, around 2030, perhaps even earlier. A horizon on the scale of a man's life. The 6,000 studies that fed into the IPCC climatologists' synthesis are formal: the 1.5° threshold will be reached earlier than expected, and if the States stick to their commitments made in the Paris Agreement, warming will reach +3°C by the end of the century. « This is a matter of extreme urgency "The Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas, reacted from Geneva: " We're heading more towards +3 to 5°C at the moment... ".

Disaster scenario

The IPCC scenario seems to be leading us straight to a world that will no longer look at all like the one we know. A world that is unbearable. At a conference given in Paris on 6 September as part of the BiomimExpo meetings, IPCC climatologist Jean Jouzel confided that what awaits us, in France, in Paris, between now and 2030, are temperatures of around 50° for long periods of the year. What scientists fear most is a runaway climate. After a certain threshold, nothing is controllable or predictable. Irreversible effects could occur, with no possible limitation. No one really knows what this threshold is, but many climatologists believe that at +2°C, we enter a zone of maximum risk. According to Pascal Canfin, Director General of WWF France, "... we are now in a zone of maximum risk. global warming is accelerating and humanity is on the verge of losing control of the climate machine ".
Faced with this prospect, IPCC climatologists are trying to avoid falling into deadly pessimism. It is absolutely necessary to stay below this threshold. We can - we must - reverse the trend and stabilise temperatures at +1.5°C. To do so, CO2 emissions must fall well before 2030 (-45% by 2030) and the world must achieve "carbon neutrality" by 2050: in other words, we must stop releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere than we can remove.
Cities, industries, energy, construction... all sectors are called upon to "make a difference". deep cuts in emissions », à « an unprecedented transition ». The IPCC focuses on energy - coal, gas and oil generating three-quarters of emissions - and proposes several quantified scenarios. « There's no time to lose. "U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Twitter. "It is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°Csays the IPCC report. But it will require urgent, collective and unprecedented action in all sectors. ". " The coming years will be the most defining years in our history. ", South African Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC, told AFP.

Unprecedented efforts

This massive reduction in emissions will require " a rapid and far-reaching transition in energy, land use, transport, building and industrial systems ", a movement " unparalleled "because it involves all these sectors at once. Renewable energies should increase from 20 to 70% of electricity production by the middle of the century, the share of coal will be reduced to dust, energy demand will have to fall, energy efficiency will have to increase...
Industry will have to reduce its CO2 emissions by 75-90% by 2050 compared to 2010 (compared to 50-80% for 2°), transport will have to switch to low carbon energies (35-65% in 2050 compared to less than 5% in 2020).
According to the report, some $2.4 trillion in annual investment will be needed between 2016 and 2035 to transform energy systems, equivalent to 2.5% of global GDP. This cost must be weighed against the much higher cost of inaction, the scientists point out.
Efforts that also affect the lifestyles of the world's inhabitants. Everyone is called upon to act, to change their habits and behaviours. But with what effects?
In 2017, scientists had published in the review Environmental Research Letters the influence on the climate of several of our decisions: changing our light bulbs, hanging out our clothes rather than using a tumble dryer, using an electric car, etc. AFP published on Twitter on 8 October a computer graphic summarising the results. Readers' offended reactions multiplied immediately. Indeed, among the measures presented, the one that has the greatest impact on the climate is ... to have one less child ...

Apathy of a crazy system

So, do the IPCC climatologists who wrote the report really believe that these efforts are needed? A study The OECD report published a few days ago tells us that of the 180 signatories to the 2015 Paris agreement (COP21), only nine countries have submitted concrete programmes to the United Nations to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Governments continue to spend colossal sums of money ($500 billion a year) to subsidize oil, coal and gas. In a chronicle published by the newspaper Le Monde, Frédéric Joignot talks about a " criminal apathy in the face of the foretold drama ".
Apathy of a crazy system thrown on its wandering, that of globalized capitalism. Scientists have coined the concept of anthropocene to describe the era in which the pressure of human activities on the environment has reached destructive levels. Pollution, species extinction, desertification, deforestation, overfishing, concentration of greenhouse gases... a "devastating capitalism", as the described Naomi Klein, has settled into the landscape of our world. In her latest book Ethics of Consideration(Edition Le Seuil, January 2018) the philosopher Corine Pelluchon wrote: capitalism implies " the destruction of ecosystems, the depletion of the Earth's resources, whose limits and finiteness are not taken into account ». According to this point of view, the term anthropocene is inappropriate; it should rather be called "capitalocene". This term appears in 2016 in the book The Anthropocene Event by Jean-Baptiste Fressoz and Christophe Bonneuil to describe a globalized capitalism that has been built through a "...". monopolizing the benefits of the Earth and externalizing environmental damage ".
In a statement the NGO Attac goes in the same direction: " The IPCC report shows that a peak in emissions must be reached in 2020 - and not in 2030 as planned in Paris - and that these emissions must be halved by 2030. Such a trajectory is not compatible with the pursuit of liberal, productivist and growth-oriented policies that fuel global warming. ".

The solution is the cause

Yet, at the time the IPCC was presenting its report, the Royal Swedish Academy was naming the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Americans William Nordhaus and Paul Romer are being honored for " developing approaches that address some of the most fundamental and pressing challenges of our time: combining long-term sustainable growth of the global economy with the well-being of the planet ». A green Nobel Prize that comes at the right time to crown specialists in the field of the environment and climate change. Two Americans who will give us some hope in this moment of climate emergency. Because they have the solution. That is what they claim.
In all their work, the two new economists have stressed the adaptive nature of the market economy, which is always capable of reinventing itself in the face of new hazards. According to them, the intrinsic characteristics of capitalism - maximisation of special interests, continuous capacity to adapt, invention of innovations that generate technical progress - are all assets for dealing with the climate crisis. We are saved because capitalism is here! Thanks to its faith in knowledge, research, sharing and the generation of innovations, capitalism is going to get us out of the crisis. « We can really make substantial progress in protecting the environment without giving up on sustainable growth. "said Paul Romer at his award presentation. If we follow them, in the face of the scourge of climate change, capitalism has nothing to blame itself for, it is the solution to the problem. At least that is the message that the members of the Royal Swedish Academy wanted to convey by awarding this 50th Nobel Prize in Economics.
An insufficient message if it is taken literally as a defence of capitalism. On the other hand, it is a message to be pondered if it encourages economists to rethink their models, financiers to change their methods of evaluation, and economic agents to make a profound change towards a new economy that respects nature and is concerned about the externalities it produces. But will the climate emergency give us the time to do so?

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