The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was published on October 8th. It does not make for comfortable reading. As is well known the agreed goal of climate change action is to reduce global warming to a level of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The special report was compiled by scientists from more than 6,000 references in scientific journals and involved the research activities of thousands of reviewers around the globe. While the goal of reducing climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is very modest, it is widely recognised that achieving that goal required ‘unprecedented changes’ on the part of governments, nations and citizens. The report will be presented at a special intergovernmental meeting in December 2018.
The report suggests that while in the short-term we may be on track to achieve the 1.5 degree goal by 2030, the outlook to the end of the century, if present rates of global warming continue, suggest that global warming temperatures are set to rise to 3 degrees Celsius. Above 2 degrees warming the coral reefs will disappear around the world. The Artic will be completely free of ice during the Summer months at least once a decade. This puts many species in danger, not only in the Artic, but also elsewhere. Large numbers of animals and plants will become extinct as their habitat reduces. This has serious long-term consequences for bio-diversity and the future of life on the planet.
One of the recommended strategies for addressing climate change at national levels is the introduction of a carbon tax to persuade people and economies to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Already, we have seen the introduction of electric vehicles on our roads. But the pace of change is slow and the incentives to move to electric vehicles are few. That said, some countries, such as France, have proposed very ambitious targets in this area.
Meanwhile, today’s Irish budget proposals presented to parliament contain no mention of carbon taxes. This has been criticised by the Irish climate change NGO community. The Irish Climate Change Advisory Council strongly favours the introduction of a carbon tax if current levels of CO2 emissions are to be reduced in line with IPCC targets. So far, the Irish Government has shown itself to be reluctant to contemplate such a step. Equally, the agri-industry has expressed doubts about supporting climate change measures because of its heavy reliance on the dairy industry. Cows have been shown to be serious contributors to global warming because they generate methane.