“Every decade is consequential in its own way, but the twenty-twenties will be consequential in a more or less permanent way. Global C02 emissions are now so high – in 2019, they hit a new record of 43 billion metric tons – that ten more years of the same will be nothing short of cataclysmic. Unless emissions are reduced, and radically, a rise of two degrees C (3.6 F) will be pretty much unavoidable by 2030. This will make the demise of the world’s coral reefs, the inundation of most low-lying island nations, incessant heat waves and fires and misery for millions – perhaps billions – of people unavoidable” – Elizabeth Kolbert, 2020.
Burning Fossil Fuels such as Methane on UC campuses releases Carbon Dioxide
CO2 is much higher now than any point in the last 800 000 years, ~ 416 parts per million (ppm). This causes an increase of temperature that is driving more frequent and intense extreme weather events. The frequency of such events has increased nearly 400% since the 1970s.
We have had about 1.0°C of heating since pre-industrial times. According to the IPCC “Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate (high confidence)”.
What is our remaining carbon budget?
In 2018, the IPCC, backed by the world’s governments declared we must cut emissions 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels to have a 66% chance of keeping heating to 1.5°C. But apart from a dip owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions are not generally being cut by nations and institutions. Another way to appreciate the urgency is to conceive of this in terms of our remaining carbon budget.
The world has a remaining carbon budget of 300 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to emit [typically close to 40 Gt per year] to keep heating to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. But existing and pledged fossil-fuel infrastructure and business-as-usual commits us to 840 Gt. It’s clear we’re going to blow through the 1.5 C target unless there is a rapid replacement of fossil fuel infrastructure, and that applies to the 2 C target too . The UC, as one of the largest institutions in the world, must promptly lead the way. If it can’t, what hope is there?