The Paradise Lost

The climate change and the last hopes of the IPCC report

Column by Francesco Grillo for the Italian newspapers (Il Messaggero, Il Mattino and Il Gazzettino del Nord-Est



For many, the Maldives are the closest thing to paradise on earth. And yet, paradise is disappearing. Literally. A few months ago, President Ibrahim SOHIL denounced at the last United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) that, if the world does not find a way to stop global warming within 1.5 degrees (compared to the averages recorded before the last industrial revolution), the atoll will be submerged by the ocean in a few years. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that the risk of a catastrophe is now almost a certainty. And yet, there is still one last hope: we will play for it in the next seven years. A fundamental role is played by the very old continent from which more than half of the tourists come who are willing to spend up to 10,000 euros for a week in paradise lost.

The document that summarizes all the work done by the IPCC since 2015 reinforces three messages that should guide us on climate. First of all, it is reiterated that the future is coming at us. The report calculates that we can still emit only about 400 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere before condemning ourselves to cross the red line beyond which certain climate changes (including rising sea levels) become irreversible: we currently emit almost 40 and by 2029 we could have already exhausted the last margin. Secondly, the report says that there is an unfortunate correlation: the countries that have contributed the least to the disaster (all of Africa) are the most vulnerable to its consequences, and this opens up a gigantic question of justice. Finally, there is also good news: the cost of producing energy from renewable sources is now lower than the unit cost of generation from oil and gas. The sun and wind are clearly our best hope for dramatically cutting emissions. 

Which are the main risks?

According to the report, humans are the main drivers behind issues such as more intense heat waves, glaciers melting, and our oceans getting warmer: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”. To stop climate change, drastic cuts in emissions are needed to stop climate change - otherwise the situation will be irreversible: deforestation and rising sea livels are the main risks. Moreover, within the next ten years, climate change will be responsible for pushing anywhere from 32 to 132 million people into extreme poverty and global warming will put food security at risk and contribute to an increase in deaths and illnesses related to heat, heart disease, and mental health problemsSocial and economic issues such as inequality, conflict, and underdevelopment, limited access to essential services such as healthcare, not only increase the vulnerability to climate-related risks but also restrict communities' capacity to adjust to changes in climate. In nations that are highly vulnerable, mortality rates resulting from droughts, storms, and floods between 2010-2020 were 15 times greater than in nations with very low vulnerability. 

Which are the main actors in the battle against climate change?

Europe is actually the only region in the world that has already begun the reversal that must become clear in the coming years. Since 1990 we have reduced our greenhouse gas production by a quarter, while in the rest of the world it has increased by 50%. The goal of the Union's Green Deal is to cut it by a further 30% over the next seven years, which means increasing by four times the speed at which the continent is moving away from the fossil economy. The question, however, is whether we are doing enough to avoid a catastrophe that would also affect us if we were able to perform our task on time.

In reality, the Green Deal should be strengthened in two directions. Firstly, more stringent objectives, with a timing that is articulated by year and country and greater flexibility for the means used to achieve them: it is the same IPCC that indicates that there is not enough data to make the electric car the totem of the transition.

Secondly, the Union's pact cannot be enough. If Europe is expected to make a titanic effort, the world must achieve an even greater feat to save itself: scientists calculate that global emissions must fall by 21% by 2030 (after an increase that has lasted uninterrupted for two centuries) even just to stay below a disastrous 2-degree increase in temperatures. To achieve this, Europe needs to regain the environmental leadership it has lost elsewhere. By mediating between the United States, China, and India, which are the powers that will decide the game. Powers that have a formidable competitive advantage in technology. And a brake factor in the growing distrust that divides them and that Europe must be able to overcome. For example, by designing a compensation and sharing tool for damages that works on a global level.





Climate change is not only one of the greatest threats that human civilization has ever faced.It is also paradoxically the most powerful narrative that unites different countries in the same game, because if the rich fail the climate, they will be hit with biblical migrations from places without water. It unites different generations because the survival of those who do not vote today depends, as never before, on the responsibility of parents and grandparents. It connects the most sophisticated part of technological progress with the "weather" in small Italian villages suspended between definitive depopulation and surprising relaunches.

The paradise of the Maldives is perhaps truly lost. It belongs to an era that is ending. The flight of a single tourist from Milan to the Maldives produces a ton of carbon dioxide. More than what is generated in a year by one of the inhabitants of the atoll who is waiting for them on the other side of the world. Will we survive a progress that has made us take a giant leap forward, imagining all together - governments, citizens, companies - a different way to protect the thousand paradises of a land designed to host us.


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