As per the 2019 United Nations General Assembly high level meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development, we have time till 2030 AD to prevent irreversible damage from Climate Change. In the words of the General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), “We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet.”
2030 AD. That’s less than 10 years away.
To consider what kind of damage/ accelerated effects we are looking at, NASA lists some of the long-term climate change effects here:
- Temperature rises
- Frost-free season and growing season will lengthen affecting agriculture and ecosystems
- Changes in precipitation patterns
- More droughts and heat waves
- Hurricanes to become stronger and more intense
- Sea levels to rise 1 – 8 feet by 2100
- Arctic expected to become ice-free
Working towards ensuring we are able to avoid these effects, there are: (a) measures we can take at the individual level, and then are there are (b) measures which require collective action.
I. Measures that each of us can take at the individual level include:
- Driving and flying less, and using more green energy powered private/ public transport wherever possible.
- Being more mindful of your food habits : Giving up dairy and meat fully does not necessarily have to be the option, but instead reducing your consumption of animal protein by half in itself cuts down your diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40%.
- Reducing wastage in food and energy at home, avoiding plastic, sharing resources and reducing your carbon and digital footprint mindfully.
- Protecting our forests and green cover, and planting more trees.
II. Limiting the irreversible effects of climate change would mean holding down the global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels.
Warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celcius could set off climate feedbacks that would accelerate warming even further.
Five critical shifts at collective scale required to achieve this include:
- Reforming Food and Forestry
This would entail reducing the share of beef and lamb in global protein consumption, adopting new rice-cultivation methods and curbing food loss and waste.
To reduce transport emissions, a widespread shift to zero-carbon alternatives such as electric vehicles would be required.
To reduce two largest contributors of building emissions, emissions from space and water heating would need to be abated by electrification.
- Reshaping Industrial Operations
Reduced methane emission from oil, gas and coal-mining industries can be achieved by reduced demand, leak repairs and gas recovery.
Embracing the circular economy, boosting efficiency and optimizing processes would also add towards carbon emission reductions.
Electrifying heating processes where applicable would be an important decarbonization lever, especially for low-to-medium temperature industries such as construction, food, textiles and manufacturing.
- Decarbonizing Power and Fuel
Moving away from energy generated by coal and natural gas, and towards renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydrogen and bioenergy important.
- Ramping up Carbon Management, Use and Storage (CCUS)
CCUS involved capturing CO2 from point sources or directly from air, and using or storing it to prevent release into atmosphere.
We would also require rapid reforestation in addition to all measures outlined.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.Bill Gates
What are we going to make happen, individually and collectively, in 10 years?
We’ve only got so long.