Climate change is no longer a distant threat. There was a time when we thought of it as a problem for future generations. Not anymore.
Climate change is here and it’s rapidly getting worse. Its consequences are suffered by citizens all over the world. Weather-related disasters are now more frequent and harmful, and each year sees new records broken: extreme temperatures, floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires. 2018 brought us wildfires raging from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean and from the US West Coast to Australia.
In 2015, more than 200 governments signed the Paris Climate Accord, agreeing to pursue a global-warming limit of 1.5°C. To work on the specifications of the deal, governments asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare a Special Report. This week, that intensive, detailed work by the global scientific community has been delivered.
One of the main conclusions was that limiting warming to 1.5°C, instead of 2°C, would make a huge difference for humanity and for biodiversity in oceans and on land. It would protect hundreds of millions of people from extreme heat waves, and it could halve the proportion of new populations who would be exposed to water scarcity. And it will help us to achieve key sustainable development and poverty eradication goals.
It is 2018 and we already are 1°C above pre-industrial levels. If our global carbon emissions continue to increase at the current rate, 1.5°C warming will be exceeded between 2030 and 2052. The biggest sources of those carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels and from eradicating our forests.
And so, restricting warming to 1.5°C or below is the only way out. It is a challenging goal, but it is still achievable. We must act fast and accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies. The next few years will be critical for our planet to embark on a transformational path to reduce our carbon emissions and protect and restore our forests, if we are to do what the science tells us it imperative and bring our emissions to net zero, by mid-century the latest.
In the case of Argentina, the Government, as chair of the G20, must lead this change and make the transition to renewable energies. And while the Government of Argentina has pledged to take action on climate, its current policies are not aligned with this goal. Currently, renewable energies represent only the 2% of the national energy matrix. Meanwhile, the government is pushing to develop the world’s second shale gas reserve, Vaca Muerta. Continuing to drill and frack gas and oil – two of the biggest sources of climate emissions – at this scale is simply incompatible with a 1.5 degree world, and will make it impossible for Argentina to play its role in meeting the ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This is the moment of truth. As a planet we must halve our global emissions in the next decade. If we are serious about making the world a better place for people to live, we need to radically increase the steps we are taking to address climate change. We must transform how we our generate energy, we must change our approach to land-use. The alternative is matter of life and death for millions of people around the world, as climate change steals away any ability we have to constructively shape and improve the communities we live in. It’s a huge challenge, and we are late in the day. But it is still achievable.
Amanda Starbuck is the Campaigns Director at Greenpeace Argentina.