Droughts and heavy rainfalls in South Africa, devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean, receding glaciers in the Andes, rain instead of snow in the polar region: Climate Change is already undermining livelihoods of millions of people around the world. Rice and maize harvests could drop up to 40 % in the future. Especially dangerous are so called tipping points in the earth system like the melting of the permafrost that could set free enormous amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. To avoid such knock-on effects we have to exit much earlier from coal, gas and oil as planned today, says Kevin Anderson from the renowned Tyndall Centre.
Fabian Scheidler: Welcome to Kontext TV. The Paris Climate summit lies behind us. But what does the future look like? Climate science tells us that the current pledges of governments will lead us into a catastrophic climate havoc with global warming beyond three degrees Centigrade.
David Goessmann: Which effect will this have on people and the rest of nature? Who is going to suffer most? Who is responsible for the inadequate answers to this crisis? And which alternative ways exist in order to avoid a climate disaster?
Fabian Scheidler: According to the World Health Association, climate change is already killing at least 150.000 people each year. And this is occurring at only 1 degree Celsius warming that we have reached until now. In Paris we talked to representatives of indigenous and peasant movements, with climate scientists and activists about the effects of accelerated climate change.
Kayah George: In my tribe we're some the first people to notice the effects of climate change. We completely depend on our land and we completely-- we see around us-- we see the animals, we see the ocean and the mountains and the water. And we see how it's been changing.
Aile Javo: In the Arctic we experience even more warming then in the rest of the world. Some scientists say, that when the rest of the world warms 2°, the Arctic will warm 8 °C. And we have been experiencing the effects of climate change for a long time now. We are reindeer herders, so we experience that the temperatures are going up and down during the wintertime. And that means it's raining when it's not supposed to rain. The snow turns into ice; underneath it's ice. It's difficult for the reindeer to find the food and to dig through the ice to get the food.
Themba Austin Chauke: We've got drought and livestock are dyeing. So we are(?) in a vulnerable situation. If sometimes rain seems to be coming it's a thunderstorm with wind, destroying the houses of the people. So we are in the vulnerable situation as we speak. And our water reservoir is drying up. And underground our ??? is also drying up.
Mariama Williams: Jamaica – as a small island – we have issues around the ocean. Right. The coral reef, the bleaching of the coral reef... We're also seeing sea level rise. But very small, not to the extent as in the pacific. Like for nations like Tuvalu or Marshall Islands and so forth. But I think, the day-to-day impact of it for many Jamaicans right now are twofold. One is the drought. Right – the prevalence of drought. We are seeing – as the IPC has predicted – as the warming increases you have less and less rainfall and some areas, in some places, have more rainfall. So climate change is kind of a contrary thing. Which is why some people don't believe it. Because it's contrary. In some places you're going to have what we have in the Caribbean. We are nations surrounded by water – but we have problems getting water! For drinking, for food and so forth. Because of the drying up of some of the water. You know, and various-- in Africa it's the salination of the water. Though that has impact for another area that's coming in: "Gender". Women. Women in Africa; women and girls that are the ones who have to find water. So when nearby pools of water dry up or get contaminated they have to go further and further away from their home. Which is exposing them to physical harm and security. But also predisposes them to more increased work burden, as well as other kinds of things. And they're not the one's who are getting the climate finances coming in. The climate finance tends to get to big mega projects and so forth. So there's a big push to try to get "Gender" into this agreement.
Pablo Solón: (You) can go to mountains in Bolivia where we used to have glaciers, ten years ago. And now we don't have them. In all the Andean region we lost between 30-50% of our glaciers. And if we lose the glaciers, we will lose the water that comes from those glaciers. That will have a very big impact in the human right to water; in agriculture; in biodiversity. So we're speaking about really a catastrophe in highlands – highlands that have glaciers.
Mariama Williams: Then the other thing for the Caribbean is of course hurricanes. We know Dominica, which in the last bond session in October had us-- not even a hurricane but excessive rain and flooding, which the World Bank last week announced has destroyed over 90% of the GDP. So one extreme weather event – not even a big hurricane, in fact the hurricane passed – it’s the after rain from the hurricanes that washed away bridges and so forth. So for us that’s why the issue of loss and damage has become a big area of tension. That’s the other area of tension in the agreement, because the agreement has an option now that is put by the US, that is asking the developing countries, the small islands, in order for the US to support loss and damage in the agreement – just reference to it or any expansion of it – they must agree to not raise the issue of liability and compensation.
Pablo Solón: We're going to have this phenomenon of El Niño that now is going to hit the Americas. And everybody – all the scientists, the NASA – is saying: "Hey, this time it's going to be much bigger then what we have seen before". It's going to be El Niño, but El Niño Godzilla. You know, very big. And it's not going to be just one natural phenomenon that comes once and then you see it in 5, 7 years. It can come more often. So, and the impact of this in terms of floods and in terms of droughts is going to be tragic. It has not yet begun. But we already have natural disasters going on in all the Americas and Latin America. So this is just the beginning. Still we are not taking the right measures.
Alice Bows-Larkin: When we look at other studies that indicate what happens at a 3-4° temperature rise one of the things that we have to remember is that these are just global average temperatures. So the temperature rise over the sea actually happens more slowly, because of the thermal inertia of the oceans. Which means that the land temperatures are actually higher than that. And in the end we – as human beings – we don’t experience global averages, we experience weather, we experience extreme weather as well, and so we have to look at what that might mean for us. And so in terms of for example the sort of hottest day that you might experience – like a day in heat wave – in some parts of the world you might be under a 4° C type scenario. You might be looking at 6, 8 maybe 10° warmer on top of that, on the hottest day. So if you imagine yourself in the middle of the city centre and the sun is beating down and then it’s 6, 8 or 10° hotter than you’ve ever experienced – that’s the kind of thing we are talking about under a 4° world. And then in terms of food security and other impacts, of course agriculture is going to be greatly affected by these sorts of temperature rises and there are predictions at a 4° average temperature (rise) there will be major impacts on the yields of things like maize and rice – up to 30 or 40% reductions in those yields which would be absolutely devastating for global food security.
Kevin Anderson: As the temperature goes up, we melt the permafrost. We melt the tundra inside large parts of Russia. And within that soil, within that tundra, there is lots and lots of methane, there is lots up there. Methane's a very powerful green house gas. So, as the tundra melts, the temperatures go up. The methane will be released into the atmosphere. And that methane will then cause additional warming, which means the permafrost will melt even faster, which means you get additional amounts of methane. And as the temperatures go up, the oceans will warm quicker. As the oceans warm, they will outgas more carbon dioxide that is stored within the oceans. So you get a whole suite of potential feedbacks that make the situation much worse. And may ultimately be more important than our own carbon dioxide emissions. So we are aware that they are there. And I think it's very foolish if we do not think about those when we are developing policy. Although we know there are a suite of these impacts that are there, suite of these tipping points; and we know that overall they will make the situation considerably worse; what we don't understand from the science yet, at any level of detail and precision, is exactly when they will occur. So they is, as they ???, there's still some healthy distort and dialogue about what temperature will trigger certain levels of melting in the West Antarctic peninsula; or increase the rate of melt in Greenland; or the melting of the permafrost and the release of methane into the atmosphere. And there's disagreement as to whether that could occur at 1° or 1,5 °C temperature rise, at a significant level; or whether we may relatively safe until we get to 2,5° or 3°. And that is because that side is still not so robustly understood to be included in the detail of the climate models. So I think we have to be quite careful in saying that these are going to occur at 1,5° or 2° or 2,5 °C. But what we are very clear about, is that as the temperature rises, the probability of these positive feedbacks, that make the situation worse, occurring, goes up. So any moderately prudent society – given that we are – we are carrying out that experiment on our one planet, it's the only planet we have – any moderately prudent policy makers or civil society would think that you would err(?) on the side of being cautious. And therefore, if there are good scientific ??? these could occur earlier – and the sort of ??? that Jim Hansen would make – then I think that's probably the ones we should be using to form policy. And if these feedbacks occur, then our carbon budget in effect has shrunk very significantly. So they're sort of issues that Alex was talking about in sort of these cumulative amounts of emission that we have, this salary of carbon dioxide that we can spend, would be much, much smaller, because the natural systems would start to be absorbing some of that salary. Some of that carbon budget.