Oceans poised to become our worst enemy according to the UN
The oceans, sources of life on Earth, could become our worst enemies on a global scale if nothing is done to put a brake on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a draft report obtained in exclusivity by AFP.
L es fish stocks could decline, the damage caused by hurricanes multiply and 280 million people would be displaced by rising sea levels, according to the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC), on the oceans and the cryosphere (pack ice, glaciers, ice caps and frozen ground permanently), which will be officially unveiled on September 25 in Monaco.
This rich 900-page document is the fourth UN special report issued in less than a year. The equally alarming precedents concerned the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C, biodiversity and land management and the global food system.
According to this fourth installment, which compiles the existing scientific data and is seen as a reference, rising sea levels could eventually move 280 million people worldwide. And this in the optimistic hypothesis where global warming would be limited to 2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era.
With the expected increase in the frequency of cyclones, many megacities close to the coast, but also small island nations would be flooded every year from 2050, even in optimistic scenarios.
“When you observe the political instability triggered by small-scale migrations, I tremble when I think of a world where tens of millions of people would have to leave their lands swallowed by the ocean,” worries Ben Strauss, president and CEO. from Climate Central, a research institute based in the United States.
The report also predicts that 30% to 99% of permafrost, the ground layer frozen theoretically year-round, melts by 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.
Permafrost in the northern hemisphere will release a carbon bomb (CO2) and methane (CH4) during the thaw, accelerating warming.
Phenomena already underway could also lead to a steady decline in fish stocks, on which many people depend for their food. The damage caused by the floods could be multiplied by 100, even up to 1,000 by 2100.
The melting of glaciers caused by global warming will give too much fresh water, then too little, to the billions of people who depend on it, also points a provisional “summary for decision makers” to be discussed line by line by the representatives of the countries IPCC members, meeting in Monaco from 20 September.
Friction of major issuers
According to the report, sea level rise in the 22nd century “could exceed several centimeters per year”, about a hundred times more than today.
If the increase in temperatures is 2 ° C in 2100, it will be the beginning of a “race forward” in the rise of the sea, warns Ben Strauss.
The release of the report will come after a world climate summit convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on 23 September. It wants stronger commitments from countries to reduce their CO2 emissions, while at the current pace, they would lead to a global warming of 2 to 3 ° C by the end of the century.
Experts fear that China, the United States, the European Union and India – the four main emitters of greenhouse gases – are coming up with promises that are not up to the challenges.
In the United States, for example, says Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “techno-optimists still think we can find ways to solve this problem”, even as “the United States United are not ready to face a one-meter rise in sea level by 2100 “for some of their cities like New York and Miami.
Of the four major economic regions accounting for nearly 60% of fossil fuel emissions, none seems ready to announce more ambitious targets to reduce emissions from their economies.
Donald Trump dismisses the climate policy of his predecessor Barack Obama and wants the United States to leave the Paris Agreement of 2015. An agreement that aims to maintain the average increase in temperature well below 2 ° C compared at pre-industrial levels, and as much as possible at 1.5 ° C.
India, for its part, is rapidly developing solar energy, but continues to increase its coal capacity.
The European Union is moving towards a carbon “neutrality goal” to be achieved by 2050, but several Member States are reluctant to commit.
China, which emits almost as much CO2 as the United States, the European Union and India combined, sends contradictory signals.
“Beijing’s attention is gradually moving away from environmental issues and climate change,” said Li Shuo, an analyst at Greenpeace International. He explains it by the concern over the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the trade war with the United States.
Shanghai, Ningbo, Taizhou and half a dozen major Chinese coastal cities are highly vulnerable to future sea level rise, which is expected to rise one meter from the global level of the end of the twentieth century in case of maintenance CO2 emissions.