According to Professor Valladares, three decades of synthesizing and communicating scientific evidence on man-made climate change has left us with three conclusions:
- The first is that we are still not doing anything effective about the source of the problem: greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to rise and with them temperatures.
- The second is that the temporal and spatial scale of the phenomenon continues to mislead us all. We still think that we are talking about the future climate and that it is a global and distant thing. In other words, we are not quite aware that climate change is affecting us here and now.
- The third conclusion is that all the scientific nuances, all the language of probability and the scenarios of emissions and climate only sow doubt and open the way to sterile debates and to postpone difficult decisions. This is why we scientists combine reports with manifestos and are increasingly sharp in our assertions about what is happening with the climate and why it is happening.
No time for slow solutions
The International Panel on Climate Change released their new report (IPCC AR6) which sparked a lot of anticipation and deserved in-depth analysis. With the report in hand, we can say some things that are quite simple to understand: we have wasted precious time in gradually moving to another economy that is less dependent on energy, in general, and oil, in particular, than the economy. current, and we must reduce our emissions by at least half in ten years so as not to enter into truly apocalyptic climate scenarios. Although we still have a little time and many options are still within our grasp, we no longer have the time to take the time and condition the necessary decisions on reaching consensus. These two things, simple and forceful, are radically opposed to the strategy most countries are proposing to emerge from the crisis caused by covid-19. They even constitute a direct confrontation with our most intimate desires to find a certain normality after the pandemic.
The sixth report of the IPCC leaves no room for doubt. This is not speculation or ideology, but a rigorous compilation of the overwhelming scientific evidence that indicates that the tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere over the past century are responsible for the sweltering temperatures of nearly 50 ° C at over 50 ⁰ north latitude in Canada, frightening floods in Germany, Belgium and China, extreme drought in Central Asia and unquenchable fires in Siberia, Greece, Turkey and Italy . All this to name just the meteorology of the summer months of 2021. But we all have in mind the storms Gloria or Filomena, the hurricane season or the fires in Australia and California in 2020, if you go back a few months .
A path as uncomfortable as it is inevitable: reducing greenhouse gas emissions means slowing down economic development, reorganizing and limiting energy production, completely transforming the transport of goods and people, reducing agriculture and intensive livestock farming, and reorganize cities by starting with the insulation of homes and solving traffic and waste management.
We know, these are things that we are going to have to do, but these are the things that we are not doing. Or not at the right speed at least. The European Green Deal and Community agricultural policy are nowhere near as green as they appear to be and as we need them. Stimulus funds and country economic development plans are reverting to the traditional way of making money. A notion that is based on the monetary definition of happiness, health and human well-being. And we know that this way of creating wealth brings us neither happiness, nor health, nor well-being. The unsustainable and polluting lifestyle we are heading does not make us happy and the weather scenarios that this lifestyle brings us make us sick, literally rob us of sleep, and plunge us into anxiety, depression or anger. If changing the climate doesn't make us healthy or happy, then why bother turning our backs on what climate science offers?
Emissions must be reduced Rather than accepting scientific evidence and planning an economic de-escalation that actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions, we time and again persist in juggling socio-economics to reconcile development and sustainability. We impose on ourselves a program of sustainable development goals that we do not respect, among other things, because it is full of contradictions. Starting with the very concept of sustainable development. This is why a growing number of voices are being heard from those who advocate a decrease - a term that scares and shocks many - but which clearly sums up what we need to do until we manage to find environmental alternatives. more efficient.
If we think about it, we transfer our ancestral and justified panic of economic recessions to the concept of degrowth. It is an unfortunate transfer because they are very different things. Making the two sound like something similar makes it difficult to take action to tackle climate change. A recession is suffered, a decline is programmed. So a recession will always have bigger and worse side effects than an organized and planned decline.
The IPCC report guarantees that it remains mathematically possible not to exceed 1.5 ° C of warming compared to the pre-industrial era. But in order not to exceed them, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are not enough. We need quick and efficient help from the economy, politics and citizenship. We are talking about measures that are difficult to integrate for politicians because of their high electoral cost, for citizens for their remarkable implementation effort and for the economy because it simply means turning everything upside down.
There is enough technology, but the bottleneck is its real implementation. It is not enough to have technological solutions, legal frameworks and political strategies. It is essential to have the will and the capacity to apply all of this. When we seriously talk about reducing emissions, we can't believe that by increasing energy efficiency we will get there. Let's not forget the rebound effect or the Jevons paradox, that increased efficiency leads to increased consumption. In other words, Jevons' paradox states that as technological improvements increase the efficiency with which a resource is used, the total consumption of that resource may increase rather than decrease.
We can electrify all cars and all buildings, we can reorganize public transport and promote teleworking. But we will not reduce emissions enough. Think of the towering emissions associated with conventional agriculture, aviation, production and waste management, or industries like steel or cement. There is no other choice but to reduce consumption. And the best thing to do is to plan it and to accompany the measures of deep retraining and information, a lot of information and social dialogue.
If we think it is difficult and costly to mitigate the violence of climate change, let us remember, for example, the astronomical cost of the fires in California in 2020, let us also remember that the decrease in CO² emissions will allow the Homo sapiens to save at least 74 million doomed people by the end of this century and to dramatically improve the health and physical and mental well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Is there anything more valuable than this? Do we really need more reasons to act on what scientific reports on climate change tell us?
Author : Fernando Valladares Research Professor in the Department of Biogeography and Global Change, National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC).
Fernando Valladares does not receive a salary, does not perform consultancy work, does not own shares, does not receive any funding from any company or organization that could benefit from this article, and has declared no have no relevant link beyond the cited academic load.
Source : The Conservation.