In pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C,
CO2 emissions must decline 40-60% [median 50%] by 2030.
from Summary for Policymakers, IPCC Special Report on 1.5° of Warming, 2018.
Antarctic Peninsula. Image: Cassie Matias.
The 50x30 coalition is an alliance between cryosphere and emissions research institutions, and governments that have accepted the scientific necessity to reduce emissions 50% by 2030; in order to prevent cascading and irreversible damage, on a planetary scale, from the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the cryosphere.
Because of cryosphere, carbon neutrality by 2050 is not enough: the way we get there matters. Overshoot of the 1.5°C goal cannot be considered a viable or safe option, from either an economic or social standpoint. This is because much of the Earth’s polar and mountain regions – whether glaciers, snowpack, permafrost, sea ice, polar oceans and seas, or the great polar ice sheets – react directly to peaks in temperature and carbon dioxide emissions.
This can tip many of these systems into a state of decline, where a later return to lower temperatures and CO2 levels makes little difference: the damage is done, and cannot be reversed on any human timescale.
We cannot negotiate with the melting point of ice.
Miami (FL), USA. Image: unsplash.com
The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C of Warming outlined in detail the needed steps and emissions pathways to keep the planet consistently below, or close to 1.5°C of warming. All involve 45-60% reductions – median 50% – on a global scale by 2030. If we miss this mark, our communities will be burdened by loss, damage, and severe economic and social consequences for many generations to come; on a scale never before seen in human history.
With a number of major economies now committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, there is renewed hope this momentum will translate into further commitments for deep emission cuts. It is now time to take the next step: ensuring countries are achieving deep emission cuts by 2030 so that the goal of carbon neutrality actually can be achieved. A majority of governments have declared climate change a planetary emergency and existential threat; but almost none are taking the concrete steps needed to decrease emissions 50% in the next ten years: an average of 5-7% reduction annually. Instead, our emissions continue to grow, even if temporarily stalled by the pandemic.
The 50x30 governments have listened to the science, and are taking the necessary action. In the lead-up to COP-26, we invite you to join us.
Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim, India. Image: Joyston Judah / Pexels License
As cryosphere scientists and research institutions, we are alarmed by the rapid changes from global warming that we see today in these polar and mountain regions. Most importantly, we need to communicate to the world that these changes, if they are allowed to continue, will not be reversible; and will spread across the entire globe.
We see this damage already today. Cold polar seas are acidifying more quickly than any on the planet, threatening humanity’s richest fisheries. Arctic sea ice continues to disappear at a stunning rate, with warming poles disrupting global weather patterns. Permafrost thaw is now releasing carbon at the same scale as a top-20 emitter, while intensified wildfires in drier sub-Arctic forests, grasslands and peatlands release even more. Shrinking glaciers and snowpack threaten reliable water supplies for billions of people, and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets will not be reversible on any human timescale.
Ambitious and effective near-term emissions reductions also lead to less reliance on carbon dioxide removal. These near-term reductions help avoid trade-offs with other needs such as food supply and ecosystem preservation, with. the necessary “negative emissions” achieved in more sustainable ways including more nature-based solutions.
The 2018 IPCC SR1.5 outlined the need for 50% global reductions by 2030 in order to remain within 1.5°C of warming. There are other non-cryosphere impacts from exceeding 1.5°C; but the cryosphere stands out because its changes will persist for hundreds or thousands of years – in the case of ocean acidification, 50-70,000 years.
This is truly an emergency of global proportions. We call on our governments, and other major stakeholders to listen to the science, and act accordingly.
50x30 Founding Science Partners
If your research institution or organization is interested in endorsing the Science Statement, and joining 50x30 please see How to Join.