The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report on the impacts of global warming this century has been widely recognised as clarifying beyond all doubt that we do, indeed, face an unprecedented planetary emergency. Moreover, not one that will arrive far into the future, but that’s happening right now.
Zombie interstate sign via manuscriptreplica/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.
The perfect storm is here
"… recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability."
Forget dystopia – welcome to an unlivable planet
"By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors."
"Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year – and irreversibly so for hundreds of years."
The big breach
"What our findings very clearly spell out is that since the time of the dinosaurs we have not had climate change at rates as rapid as it’s currently happening. So, it’s the rates and the magnitudes of those changes which are really important."
Burn, baby, burn
"… the scenario where governments restrict hydrocarbon production in a way to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions 80 percent during the Outlook period is highly unlikely. The Outlook demonstrates that the world will require all the carbon-based energy that ExxonMobil plans to produce during the Outlook period… We see population, GDP and energy needs increasing for the world over the Outlook period, and that all economically viable energy sources will be required to meet these growing needs."
"…. renewables will continue to comprise about 5 percent of the total energy mix by 2040. Factors limiting further penetration of renewables include scalability, geographic dispersion, intermittency (in the case of solar and wind), and cost relative to other sources. The cost limitations of renewables are likely to persist even when higher costs of carbon are considered."
"Traditional energy sources have had many decades to scale up to meet the enormous energy needs of the world. As discussed above, renewable sources, such as solar and wind, despite very rapid growth rates, cannot scale up quickly enough to meet global demand growth while at the same time displacing more traditional sources of energy."
Get rich or die trying
"We predict that solar, wind, and biomass continue to gain market share from coal and nuclear into the future… As solar, wind, biomass, and other power sources gain market share from coal, nukes, and gas, the LCOE [levelised cost of energy] metric increasingly becomes important to the new build power generation decision-making."
"Given the large expected increase in demand for gas, offset by production gains, gas prices are expected to rise over the long term. As a result, the bar for renewables and other fuel sources to cross continues to rise, thus making it easier for alternatives to gain market share… Solar is still early in the growth cycle, and in many countries – Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest US – residential-scale solar has already competed with average residential electricity prices. In 2013, solar was the second-largest source of new generation capacity behind natural gas – its prospects look bright in 2014 and beyond as costs continue to decline and improve the LCOE picture."
"Radical and transformative change"
"More active forms of transport and the consumption of less red meat will cut death and illness from cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Less air pollution will cut the global burden of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and heart disease… If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change and bequeath a sustainable planet worth living on, we must push, as individuals and as a profession, for a transformed, sustainable, and fair world."