There is a contradiction between the warnings of environmental scientists and the actions of politicians. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 in order to keep warming below 1.5 °C, above which damaging impacts become increasingly dangerous and unmanageable (IPCC 2018).3 This warning came as the global temperature rise exceeded 1 °C above pre-industrial levels, summer heatwaves broke temperature records, and scientists warned of runaway climate breakdown toward a ‘Hothouse Earth’ in which “serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies” could occur (Steffen et al 2018). The authors joined groups ranging from Greenpeace to the Ministry of Defence in recognising that preventing climate breakdown requires rapid transitions of unprecedented scale in economic, social and political systems (Hope 2018; MOD 2018).
Nevertheless, the US president has concluded that “I don’t know that [climate change is] manmade”, is seeking his country’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and has cancelled many domestic policies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Holden 2018). In Brazil, new president Jair Bolsonaro threatens to open the Amazon and Cerrado – rainforests of global importance – to greater levels of development, with deforestation levels already increasing (MMA 2018). In the UK, the government’s official climate advisor has warned that the country is not on track to meet its legally binding decarbonisation targets due to a lack of policies and funding (CCC 2018). Overall, current commitments to reduce emissions are likely to lead to warming in excess of 3 °C – an outcome described as ‘catastrophic’ in a 2017 letter signed by over 15,300 scientists across 184 nations (CAT 2018; Ripple et al 2017)…
SOURCE: Laybourn-Langton L, Rankin L and Baxter D. “This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown.” IPPR, February 2019.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia