Can we afford to wait for a while or is it critical for us to start tackling climate change right away?
There are two benefits to start acting now.
Makes the Change Gradual & Relatively Painless
One, acting when it is not too late ensures that a transition to a more secure world can be gradual and without painful shocks.
In Jun 2017, researchers said we have three years to act on climate change before it’s too late. We have until 2020, say the authors before achieving the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement become almost impossible, or at least much less smooth. At that point, the actions that we’d have to undertake would be drastic; the equivalent of crash dieting and hoping for the best. Writing in journal Nature, they project that an increase of 1C (1.8F) will release an additional 55 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2050. This could trigger a “positive feedback” and push the planet’s climate system past the point of no-return.
Getting a Big Bang for the Buck from Eliminating Short-lived Climate Pollutants
The other reason has to do with short-lived climate pollutants. Short-lived climate pollutants – including black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and tropospheric ozone – are powerful climate forcers with global warming potentials many times that of carbon dioxide, and are responsible for about 25-30% of the global warming.
Measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions are often accessible and cost-effective, and if quickly implemented can bring immediate benefits for the climate as well as the health and livelihoods of millions. Due to their relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere, ranging from a few days to a few decades, short-lived climate pollutants respond very quickly to reduction efforts. If fast and widespread action is taken to reduce these pollutants, it is likely that we could cut methane emissions by 25% and black carbon by 75%, and eliminate high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons altogether in the next 25 years, and have the potential to cut the amount of warming that would occur over the next few decades by as much as 0.6°C.
Delayed efforts to mitigate either carbon dioxide or short-lived climate pollutant emissions will have negative, and potentially irreversible, consequences for global warming. Acting on these pollutants now can prevent climate tipping points that can exacerbate long-term climate impacts and make adapting to climate change harder, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.