Contributed by Erik Lensch, CEO of Leyline Renewable Capital
You’ve likely seen the news: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report emphasizing humans’ extensive impact on global climate. The report outlined the devastating consequences of our actions and warned that we must make a rapid and unprecedented societal change to combat the perils of a world warmed by 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. We have long dragged our feet on making these transitions, particularly as it pertains to limiting fossil fuels used to produce electricity and for transportation. But what if we are undergoing it even more than we think, and the costs of inaction are more severe than we realize? What if the IPCC’s dire warning is based on information that underestimates the need for lightning-fast decarbonization?
A new study and economic model from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment suggest just that. Most people understand the general impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, worsening weather events, severe heat, etc., but there are also concerns around climate tipping points: When temperatures reach a certain, yet-undefined level, we may cross thresholds of “no return” that cause sudden, more dramatic shifts in climate behavior. The Grantham study examined some primary IPCC tipping points. These include:
Thawing Permafrost: Permafrost is ground that remains frozen for a minimum of two consecutive years. As it thaws, it releases trapped greenhouse gases like carbon and methane, which in turn drive a vicious cycle of more warming and consequential thawing.Dissociation of Ocean Methane Hydrates: Methane is stored on the seafloor in the form of solid methane hydrates. As the climate warms, these hydrates may destabilize, releasing more methane that in turn further accelerates climate change.Arctic Sea Ice Loss: As the planet warms, less of the Arctic is remaining frozen through less