The Next 18 Months May Be Critical

By Roy L Hales

The heat wave that toppled European temperature records last month, reduced half of Greenland’s ice sheet to slush. Though wildfires are common in northern regions, there is no record of anything corresponding to what is transpiring today. Close to 5.5 million hectares are ablaze in northern Russia, and another million in Alaska. As a BBC environmental correspondent recently stated, the next 18 months may be critical if we hope to halt the rise of global temperatures at 1.5 degrees.

Smoke over Russia on July 24, 2019 – Courtesy NASA

The Next 18 Months

Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, page 8

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC states that if temperatures rise to 2ºC degrees:

  • the number of hot days would increase in most regions, especially the tropics – where temperatures could rise about 6°C;
  • another 420 million people may be exposed to extreme heat waves;
  • 10 million people would be exposed to the risk of flooding.
  • The resulting impacts on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets “could result in multi-metre rise in sea level over hundreds to thousands of years.”
risks & impacts rated from high (purple) to low (white) – Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, page 13

World Leaders Debate

World leaders will debate these issues at climate summits in New York (September 23, 2019), COP 25 in Santiago, Chile (Dec 2 -13, 2019) and finally COP 26 – which will most likely be in the UK (at the end of 2020).

“If we cannot use that moment to accelerate ambition we will have no chance of getting to a 1.5 or 2C limit,” says the University of Sheffield’s Prof Michael Jacobs, a former climate adviser to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Thorsten Mauritsen, a physical climate scientist at Stockholm University, agrees, “We cannot invest more in fossil fuel power or infrastructure. Everything we do from now has to change direction and not use fossil fuels.”

Glaciers” in Prince Christian Sound, Greenland, on July 27, 2019 by Anne & David via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

The Resistance

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia – all major oil producing nations – did not embrace the IPCC report and, consequently, no emissions targets were set at the UN talks in Bonn last month.

Lois Young, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, responded , “Disregarding or qualifying the best available science is tantamount to climate denialism. We must not permit even a whiff of denialism in the multilateral process. We must use the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 to operationalize the Paris Agreement.”


Meanwhile a recent CBC poll found that 65% of Canadians do not believe the nation is doing enough and 42% view climate change as a national emergency. This is not reflected in the policies of our two largest political parties, who are more concerned about expanding the oil pipeline infrastructure.

Top photo credit: Cropped image of Alaska fires – Courtesy Nasa

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