Installment 3: Dispatches from COP24, A UMN student delegation in Katowice, Poland
Installment 3 is by Annamarie Rutledge, a UMN Humphrey School of Public Affairs graduate student.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report In Numbers
At COP24, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a special event in the main plenary room: Unpacking the new scientific knowledge and key findings in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. A significant point was highlighting the key differences between 1.5°C and 2°C or higher in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. “The IPCC has given us the facts and has delivered what parties have asked of them,” stated Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary. “Now, it is their responsibility to act on that knowledge. That work continues here at COP24 and beyond.”
91 authors from 40 countries, 133 contributing authors, 6,000 scientific publications, 1,113 reviewers, and 42,001 review comments within 3 years went into producing the IPCC Special Report. Among the findings, the report emphasized the vulnerability of islands. Small islands are hotspots of climate change, witnessing devastating effects first-hand: coastal flooding, inundation, fresh water stress, saltwater intrusion, and the loss of coral reefs – just to name several. By 2100, the global mean sea level rise will be 10cm lower at 1.5°C compared to 2°C, but will still continue to rise for centuries. Scientific consensus says with high confidence that increasing warming will amplify the exposure of small islands, destroying human and ecological systems.
Let’s Listen to Small Island States
After the initial presentation of the IPCC report, SBSTA Chair Paul Watkinson took questions from parties in the audience. Representatives from small islands presented their concerns regarding the 1.5°C target. Is 1.5°C feasible? Is it over-compensating? Is it too high? Should it be the upper limit? Grenada commented that one of the most interesting findings is that we are not yet committed to 1.5°C. If we continue at present rates, we will pass it by 2030 – a narrow period of 18 years. How can we realistically implement accelerated action?
On behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Maldives took the floor, stating that the IPCC report is a gamechanger. The strong scientific support is clearly there and no country is immune to taking action. But, there is still considerable loss and damage when keeping temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. What does that mean for the Maldives and similar countries that rely on coastal and marine resources? Fiji, Haiti, and Sri Lanka – all island countries – are three of the top five on the 2018 Climate Risk Index. We may think 1.5°C is the ultimate goal, but will we see a push for an even lower target in the next week of the conference?
The Solution? Political Will.
Once again, political will was identified as the key to accelerated transitions. A ray of hope was presented earlier that day by Mae Jemisen, the first African American woman to travel in space. In the case of the ozone layer, we had a dedicated global network that came together, shared a common platform, and made a commitment to establish change. “That gives me optimism,” said Jemisen. We have to remember that, in the case of climate change, “It’s not the science knowledge that’s missing, it’s the commitment to each other.”
Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters. Every choice matters.