IPCC Code Red on Extreme Weather is a Call to Action We Cannot Ignore

 On Monday, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) officially put the world on “Code Red”, stating that the 1.5C rise limit, as committed to by countries to avoid irreversible damage, is likely to be reached sooner than was predicted by scientists just 3 years ago[1]https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/ipcc-climate-change-report-b949752.html0. Some of the changes already set in motion cannot be reversed for potentially thousands of years[2]https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/ipcc-climate-change-report-b949752.html, changes which fuel more damaging events such as floods, heatwaves, droughts and wildfires, putting billions of people at risk.

It has been announced that 2021 is now on track to end up between the 5th and 7th hottest year since records began. It is also likely not news to you that people across the globe have been affected by the destructive weather patterns over this summer. Following record breaking heatwaves, parts of the USA and Canada have been destroyed by heat induced wildfires[3] … Continue reading. Greece has also seen devastation by wildfires, with the Prime Minister describing the events as a “nightmarish summer” as 56,000 hectares of land are destroyed over just 10 days[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-58132679. This is in contrast to the extreme flooding across parts of Europe, New York, India and China, with China experiencing a year’s worth of rainfall in the capital of the Henan province, Zhengzhou, in just 4 days, displacing over 100,000 people[5]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/04/millions-more-vulnerable-flooding-next-decade-study?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco

Research has indicated that the extent of heatwaves experienced in June would have been “virtually impossible” in the absence of warming induced by climate change. To combat this, studies have suggested that the negative impacts of the dry hot conditions associated with climate change could be mitigated by planting just 20% more trees across Europe[6]https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/07/06/more-trees-more-rainfall-why-increased-tree-planting-could-save-europe-from-climate-change. By converting agricultural land into forests this could provide more moist atmospheres and increased rainfall in the dry summer months, without disrupting agriculture. Furthermore, studies into flood risk have predicted not only that flooding events will likely increase, but that ten times as many people will be threatened by floods in the next decade than have been exposed to flooding since the turn of the century[7]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/04/millions-more-vulnerable-flooding-next-decade-study?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco. Our friends at Woodland Trust say “Woods are our ally in the fight against climate change”. Forests can act as flood protection. The value of trees for flood protection is estimated to be £6.5 billion in the UK alone[8]https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/how-trees-fight-climate-change/. With only 13% of UK land area currently covered by trees, the UK has an opportunity to resist climate change by planting carbon-capturing forests which additionally provide flood protection and nature restoration. By using our land more effectively and efficiently, afforestation and nature restoration across the UK can provide a wealth of ecological benefits. Forest ecosystems play a huge role in capturing carbon, including leaves, surrounding plants and soil[9] https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/how-trees-fight-climate-change/.

July has also seen record low levels of sea ice in the Arctic, predicting that this year will result in one of the lowest Arctic sea ice extents on record[10] … Continue reading. Research shows a steady decline of arctic sea ice since the 1970’s, with our current typical summer now holding half as much arctic sea ice as was seen in the 1970s and 80s[11] … Continue reading. This appears to come hand-in-hand with sea level rise. However, one of the main drivers of sea level rise is in fact thermal expansion of water caused by ocean warming, which has caused around 19mm of sea level rise between 1993 and 2010[12]https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-climate-change-is-accelerating-sea-level-rise. Much of these extreme climate changes have been driven by increases in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, which are currently at the highest levels ever recorded[13]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/greenhouse-gases. The amount of atmospheric CO2 hit 417 parts per million in May of 2020[14]https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210108-where-we-are-on-climate-change-in-five-charts, a level that has not been reached in 400 million years. 

Reports suggest that the world only has one fifth of its “carbon budget” left before the Earth warms over our 1.5 degree limit[15]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/climate-geoengineering-series-intro. In order to halt global temperature increases above the 1.5 degree threshold for preventing irreversible climate change we must not only prevent further increases in fossil fuel emissions, but also rely on removing high levels of CO2 from the atmosphere[16]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/greenhouse-gases. This is a process heavily dependent on the construction and conservation of forests which create long-term carbon capturing stores. 

Trees are of vital importance to maintaining a balance of CO2, with an estimated 45% of all carbon on land stored in trees and forest soil[17]https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210108-where-we-are-on-climate-change-in-five-charts. Over 178 million hectares of forest have been destroyed across the world since 1990[18]https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210108-where-we-are-on-climate-change-in-five-charts. Given the role that forests play in capturing carbon, it is imperative that the world sees drastic rewilding as the most cost-effective and productive way to capture CO2 effectively.

The aim of ProjectVana is to provide the much needed meeting point for climate care to connect with corporate land opportunities. Corporate land has been identified as our greatest opportunity to provide land for the tree cover needed to remove harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, investing in flood risk prevention and nature rewilding across the UK. With corporate entities holding 130.9% of the right type of land to achieve afforestation targets in England alone, this land provides a beacon of hope for the future of our planet. The IPCC have stated that the rise in global temperatures could be limited to 1.4C by 2081-2100, but only under “very low” greenhouse gas emissions. Act now. Register your interest for ProjectVana to get the ball rolling on saving our planet. We can help offset the environmental cost of your business activities while protecting against further environmental damage to your land, and our climate.

This may be a challenging battle, but it’s one we can win if we all fight together.

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