Centre for International Environmental Studies
16 December 2019

Climate crisis: A new decade of consequences

Last week, Tim Flannery, the Segré Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute, gave a talk on the current climate crisis and the consequences for the next decade.

For 30 years, scientists have been warning the world of the current events caused by climate change with some undeniable facts as current atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now at the level observed 4 million years ago. We will witness the consequences of climate change in terms of sea-level rise, permafrost melting and the loss of the Amazonian forest. This shows the failure of global leaders in taking actions. At the opening of the COP 25 in Madrid, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the climate crisis will soon reach a point of no return - with events that will enhance climatic chaos. Increasingly, the young generation is feeling a sense of betrayal in stealing their future.

According to Professor Flannery, the pace of sea level rise is still under our control. If we keep the temperature under 1.5 degrees, the sea level can take 10,000 years to rise to unmanageable levels. There is still time to tackle climate change before it is too late. During this lunch briefing, he suggested three main steps forward. The first one involves reducing emissions of greenhouse gases as established in the Paris Agreement. The second step considers drawdown options by investing in new carbon-negative technologies and land management practices. This can be done by building cities with carbon negative material to become carbon sinks instead of carbon sources. Biological or chemical pathways can also use plants to absorb or capture CO2. Additionally, Professor Flannery underlined the opportunity of marine permaculture as an alternative for governments to invest. Seaweed farming can greatly contribute to lowering the acidity of the ocean and can be very efficient in capturing CO2. As a third step, Professor Flannery suggested to recognize options such as geoengineering. The most advanced option deals with injecting sulfur into the stratosphere over the Arctic to preserve the ice.

All those three steps can contribute to tackling climate change and should be addressed urgently by the global leaders.