By Nola Killpack
You may know that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has announced that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the rate we are now, the world will reach the threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures by 2030, but what does this mean for us? The higher temperatures will cause extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, and famines that will affect hundreds of millions of people. It will also cause more dramatic heatwaves and rises in sea level. Coral reefs will die off, economies will fall, and entire ecosystems could be lost. However, the only way to stop this rapid ascension to dystopian-level disaster is through almost completely changing our way of life. While it is too late to stop temperatures from reaching the 1.5 degree threshold, we would need to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in order to prevent temperatures from rising further. A sudden halt in production that releases greenhouse gases would take dramatic changes in industry, buildings, transportation, and energy, a solution that seems next to impossible. Plus, we are running out of time to make this change happen; even pledges like the Paris Climate Agreement will not decrease emissions enough to reach the 2050 goal. Even if we somehow do manage to prevent temperatures from crossing the 1.5 degree threshold, Arctic ice will continue to recede, sea levels will continue to rise, and weather will continue to become more extreme. We are already being directly affected by climate change; remember the late summer heatwave? Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Florence? This is just the beginning, and if we let temperatures to rise even just two degrees celsius, we will face an Artic without a spot of ice, an ocean without a single coral reef. So, is there any way to pull our world out from this bottomless pit? Scientists say that laws of chemistry and physics make reaching net zero possible, but it will require immediate international cooperation. Areas used for food production will have to be transformed to tree farms, and every company, country, and households will have to live with a conscious regard for sustainability. However, just reducing carbon emissions will not be enough to prevent catastrophe; we will have to actively remove pollution from the atmosphere by either boosting natural processes or using man made carbon-scrubbing technologies. All of these methods are still in development and will require international cooperation, including from the Trump administration.