[Note: Our blog will continue featuring posts surrounding the unfolding climate crisis as the crisis will have, in our view, a profound impact on the future of work]
In its last report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) using climate models plotted 4 scenarios of what we could be facing depending on what we do next around carbon emissions. Here are the 4 with their associated global temperature warming values:
RCP 2.5 (0.3 - 1.7°C warming)
RCP 4.5 (1.1 - 2.6°C warming)
RCP 6.0 (1.4 - 3.1°C warming)
RCP 8.5 (2.6 - 4.8°C warming)
RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathway - a greenhouse gas trajectory each with a different heating impact. Each scenario increases in its disruption severity.
How is each temperature range increase described by scientists?
0.5°C - safety
1°C - irreversible feedback loops (now)
1.5°C - dangerous world
2°C - extremely dangerous world
2.5°C - moving towards hell
3°C - horror
3.5°C - death of organized society
4°C - human survival in doubt
5°C - likely extinction
To understand what this all means take a look at this piece from a few days ago: What If We Stopped Pretending? The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it
As of 2019 we are on the RCP 8.5 trajectory.
These scenario’s as you can see from the associated picture play out over the period 2000 > 2100 — 2100 now being 80 years away. This may give us the illusion that we have time to act. I for one will be long gone by then and my daughter will be at the end of her life too. So why worry about all this now?
Because there is something that can upend these timeframes by what scientists call tipping points where positive feedback loops are triggered. For example, rising temperatures are currently melting the polar ice caps at an alarming rate, resulting in the thawing of the permafrost, which triggers the real possibility of releasing the trapped methane below the permafrost, which when released, and being a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, will heat the atmosphere more rapidly than humans are, leading to more ice melt and more methane release. (See The Most Dangerous Climate Feedback Loops Speeding Up)
This would mean that what was considered a distant future event would unfold rather rapidly in the IMMEDIATE future. (See Scientists shocked by Arctic permafrost thawing 70 years sooner than predicted)
Understanding the impact of all this on life on earth and civilization in general is important because it allows us to be prepared, at least mentally for what’s coming. For example take a look at 4 outcomes as outlined by the father of Permaculture, David Holmgren in his future scenarios work, in which he paints a picture of the real possibilities on the horizon.
Also read Professor Jem Bendell’s paper entitled Deep Adaptation - A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy
This makes for heavy, frightening and sobering reading. Individually we need to go into “emergency mode” and do everything we can to decouple ourselves from the carbon economy as best we can and encourage as many others to do the same. (See How to Act on Climate Change - A Users Guide for 2020 and Beyond) However, we need to understand that our individual actions on their own will make very little difference to all this, but mass movements will and those movements often start with individual actions.
Truth is we need a global WWII-like mobilization on this and we need governments to act. Pressuring governments to act starts with us and the choices we make and who we vote for.
I guess we will find out in due course if we succeeded.