Most of us have heard about climate change caused by anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and the effects that a further increase of the global temperature from today 0.99°C to 1.5°C, 2°C and beyond will have for all mankind. What we haven’t sufficiently realised is how dangerous the game that we are playing really is and how urgent drastic changes are required to minimise the risk of so-called tipping points. Tipping points are critical thresholds that once they are reached will lead to abrupt and irreversible changes of the ecosystem. The release of carbon dioxide and other GHGs can lead to such tipping points due to their impact on the global atmospheric temperature and as a consequence avoiding the release of GHGs to the atmosphere is the necessary step to stay as far as possible away from the critical thresholds.
The carbon dioxide budget is the best concept to visualise how serious the current situation is. In order to stay below 1.5°C global warming that all nations in 2015, with the Paris Climate Agreement preferably agreed on, we have with our current emissions (1,331 tons of CO2 per second) a budget of 361,538,000,000 tons left. This corresponds to a time period of 8 years, 7 months and 7 days, assuming that the emissions are remaining constant. If we look at the numbers with the 2°C scenario that all nations with the Paris Climate Agreement definitely agreed on we have 26 years, 5 months and 15 days left. A live carbon clock can be found at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) webpage.
Considering our current global consumption of and dependence on fossil fuels and the speed of political decisions, especially on a global scale, both 8 and 26 years will not be enough to keep global warming under the accepted limits. But today, initiated by the movement FridaysForFuture, people all over the world (in 1,623 places in 119 countries) are protesting against the lack of action on the climate crisis. That people on a large scale realise the urgency of the climate crisis and and are willing to fight for action, is giving a spark of hope that we can still change tack. In this matter, every voice and every contribution counts. Let’s start together.