10 04 2023 at 00:00
IPCC latest Assessment Report tells us that Climate Action can't wait
Author: Stuart Thorp
In this article I will focus on the latest IPCC assessment report summary which sends us a very clear message:
I will also share some further thoughts from my studies on Climate Science as well as provide a status update on taking PMI Climate Action initiatives to a pan-European level. I will also share a very positive conclusion.
IPCC AR6 - Synthesis Report Climate Change 2023
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment synthesis report was published 20 Mar 2023 (hence just missed getting a mention in my last article!)
I thought it may be helpful to summarise some key aspects that may interest PMI members.
I have used some of the diagrams included in the IPCC report.
Impact on ourselves, our families, and future generations:
- Humans have already caused around 1.1C average global warming since 1900.
- The temperatures and impacts will rise (how much will depend on our future emission scenarios).
- The impact will be greater for the generations that follow us – and this will be driven by the choices we make now and in the near term.
Risk management perspective - we are gambling with the future of a liveable planet:
- As Project Professionals we are familiar with managing risks.
- Depending on which scenario we follow – we may face up to 5C global average temperature rise by 2100.
- If we can achieve a very low emissions scenario, then average global temperatures would peak before 2050.
- As we gain a greater understanding of the impacts of Climate Change the risks are more serious than previously thought.
- The “Global Reasons for Concern” levels from the previous AR5 report – are now (in AR6) considered to occur lower temperatures than previously thought.
There is further risk of irreversible or abrupt changes:
- In my article last month, I shared my concerns about the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the AR6 Synthesis Report also refers to this.
- The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC or Great Conveyor Belt system) is a circulation of warm surface waters that flows between the Southern Indian and Pacific Oceans through to the North Atlantic, sinks in the North Atlantic due to cooling and the salinity of the water, and returns south to the Indian and Pacific Oceans as cooler sub-surface currents.
- The report shows only medium confidence that this will not collapse abruptly before 2100.
If this were to collapse, regional weather patterns are likely to be significantly, and abruptly impacted.
In the last month, a concerning related article has been published indicating "Antarctic ocean currents heading for collapse" - due to Antarctic ice melting. This is a similar phenomenon to AMOC, but at the south pole.
What is specifically concerning is that this circulation could slow at twice the rate of the decline in the North Atlantic.
"[It's] stunning to see that happen so quickly," said climatologist Alan Mix from Oregon State University, a co-author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment.
"It appears to be kicking into gear right now. That's headline news," he told Reuters.
Every fraction of a degree of warming we can avoid is worth it:
- Every increment in global warming will lead to greater and more widespread extremes in climate.
- The charts below show, for temperature above the Paris agreement targets, significant hottest-day peaks as well as increasing drought – in particular in southern Europe.
Urgent action is needed to keep open the lower risk options:
The good news - there are already solutions that can significantly help reduce emissions:
- Solar and Wind have made fantastic progress as alternative energy technologies and can be deployed with high confidence to reduce emissions.
- A wide range of sectors have been analysed and Mitigation options identified, and assessed for feasibility, confidence, and lifetime cost of implementation.
- This view could serve as a good basis to identify priority focus topics for us all in the Projects we chose to manage, and the companies we chose to work for.
I hope that I’ve given you a flavour of the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report, but I also advise you to hear it from the experts in these press conference extracts:
"Together we can":
- The Scientists have done their job to help us understand Climate Change
- The Engineers have developed solutions that can solve the problem
- UN call to action: we need Climate Action on all fronts: "Everything, Everywhere, All at once"
- As Project Professionals we have unique skills to help.
In my last 2 articles, I have referred to my studies on Climate Science by following the "Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact" MOOC led by Climate guru Michael Mann.
I'm delighted to be able to share that I have successfully completed this course - and especially privileged to receive a personal note of congratulation from Professor Michael Mann - that really made my day!
My key learnings from the final modules in the course included:
- Understanding why a set of representative scenarios are adopted as a basis for scientists to explore the likely future impact of climate change.
- Why it is so important to push for scenarios that limit global warming to 2 Celsius (or preferably 1.5C) - as also echoed in the latest IPCC summary report (above).
- Immediate action is needed to significantly reduce CO2
- Scientists cannot be precise about specific regional impacts, as the science is so complex.
- However, the evolution of the science has generally shown that previous predictions have been optimistic, and the more that we understand the science, the more serious the impact.
- The rate of rise in sea-level will accelerate due to increasing rates of continental ice shelf melting.
- 'Feedback' effects may lead to 'tipping-points', which, once past will be difficult or impossible to undo.
- Some impacts may be counter-intuitive - for example in the Northern Hemisphere, we may face higher levels of drought as well as more extreme rain and snow events (warmer air can hold more water vapour as well as drying out soil.)
- The cost of significant Climate Change would be staggering (e.g. 10 metre sea level rise could equate to multi-trillions of dollars cost in addition to massive human and ecological impact.)
- The impacts of Climate Change could include: changes to coastlines globally, impact to biosystems and biodiversity, impact to sources of food, impact to human health, impact to national security on a global scale.
- The course concluded with a module on the way forward. Whilst there are some theoretical 'geo-engineering' options, the best way forward is, without any doubt, to focus on immediate and dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions resulting from the consumption of fossil fuels.
I must say that I have found that the course gave me a good basis of understanding to be able to read the latest IPCC summary report and understand the report in a way that I have previously found more challenging!
If you have the time available (total study time estimated around 32 hours) then I'd thoroughly recommend this (free of charge) course.
However, if your time is more limited, then I will soon share more information on Climate Fresk based climate awareness training (3-hour interactive workshops - based on the IPCC report findings). The use of this platform by the PMI is one of the recommendations I will be sharing as part of the PMI Europe Climate Action initiative.
PMI Europe Climate Action
In my previous article, I referred to a call scheduled to take place 29 March, to which all PMI European Chapter Presidents and Climate representatives were invited.
We decided to re-schedule that call as it clashed with the PM4TheWorld event that was set up in support of the Earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria, to which PMI members globally were invited.
Although I consider Climate Action to be urgent, I believe we will see benefits from delaying our call as many of the themes discussed in the PM4TheWorld event are also relevant to the Climate Crisis. Whilst mankind has little or no influence over earthquakes, the resulting disaster situations have similarities with the disasters we could face in future due to Climate Change. Why would we consciously choose a way of living that could contribute to such future disasters?
Attending the PM4TheWorld event also provided some great international networking opportunities that should lead to increased attendance and interest in PMI European level Climate Action.
We have rescheduled the PMI Europe Climate Action call to 19 April 2023, and I will share an update on the outcome in the PMI Belgium May Newsletter.
A positive conclusion...
I'm pleased to be able to conclude this article on a very positive note.
I have been very fortunate to have benefitted from a fixed-price energy tariff since before the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This has made me nervous about the new tariff that will apply from May 2023 (when my fixed price contract expires and, as I have recently had a digital meter installed, I will no longer be able to fully benefit from solar production 'turning back my meter'.)
Initial research indicated that my previous provider (one of the energy 'giants' offering '100% green' electricity) would be the lowest cost option, however just before confirming the contract extension (at a higher and variable price tariff), I did a final check from an environmental perspective on the Greenpeace comparator. I was surprised to see that my previous provider was only getting a 7/20 score despite a promise of 100% green electricity.
I looked at the higher scoring providers:
- 2 were getting a 'perfect' 20/20 (but were fully subscribed cooperatives, not taking on new customers.)
- 2 were getting a 'nearly perfect' 19/20 score.
One of the latter was a local (to East Flanders) energy producer focusing on Solar and Wind production, with some biogas production (for periods with less Solar / Wind production). When I checked their pricing, the total cost simulation was 23% less than my previous provider (their energy cost saving would be much more than 23% as the tariff also includes fixed and transport related costs.)
This tangible example links straight back to the IPCC report - Solar and Wind are not only sustainable sources of energy, but they are also already the cheapest sources of energy. My new small, local, energy provider can significantly undercut a giant producer - whose operations are burdened with the cost of fossil fuel and legacy nuclear production. This is the future of energy!
It's not appropriate to promote specific suppliers in this article, but if you live in Belgium and are interested in energy choices, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I'll be following up in a later article on how we can help ease the challenges of variability in Solar and Wind production (but in the medium term, responsibly produced biogas is probably not a bad solution.)
As always, I welcome any feedback & comments on this and my other articles.
---- previous article for context -----
Title: Taking Climate Action to a PMI European level
Author: Stuart Thorp
In this article I'll start by talking about my holidays and my studies from a Climate Action perspective and then relate these to what we can be doing, together with our PMI colleagues across Europe, to tackle the Climate Crisis.
Holiday in UAE & Oman
Since writing my February article, I have enjoyed a wonderful holiday in UAE & Oman to celebrate a 'special birthday' with my wife and some friends.
Before you ask, yes, we flew (estimated 1.45 Tonnes CO2e flight emissions), however I have funded the planting of sufficient trees to compensate these emissions many times over.
I saw significant changes in the UAE since my previous visit (10 years ago):
- Recognition of Climate Change and the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions (e.g. in the "Zayed's Antarctic Lights" documentary)
- Improvements in waste collection & recycling.
- More openness and less sense of nationality-based hierarchy.
I was asked about my view on the changes.
My response was cautiously positive, but it all depends on the COP28 outcome (as UAE have the COP28 Presidency):
- If COP28 achieves an outcome aligned with Paris Agreement objectives (limiting global average temperature rise to 2C max and preferably 1.5C) then UAE will have demonstrated its commitment to a future without fossil fuel.
- If COP28 does not maintain the Paris Agreement objectives then it would bring into question the commitment of UAE (and by association, the whole fossil fuel industry) to delivering the Paris Agreement.
Positive COP28 Presidency by UAE would be a good example to the whole industry globally and may sign to world leaders that digging for more oil & gas (like the recently approved Alaska Oil Project) may not be economically lucrative in the long run (especially when the cost of Climate mitigation also considered).
My personal view is that we should assume a pessimistic case and be working urgently on reducing fossil fuel demand as, regardless of the COP28 outcome, this should ease the challenge of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 C. Perhaps rather cynically (not my preferred style), taking this view means that we have wasted no time if there isn’t genuine commitment to COP28 maintaining the Paris Agreement.
Already starting to reduce demand also sends the strongest possible message to the fossil fuel industry (otherwise, “if we keep burning it, they will keep pumping it”).
If you are unsure about how to reduce your fossil fuel consumption, one suggestion is to reduce top-speed and aggressive acceleration when driving; 10% reductions in driving related emissions can easily be achieved in this way.
I am looking forward to positive news in Dec 2023 of the UAE-chaired COP28 delivering a successful outcome. I will then be able give my unreserved positive feedback on the transformational progress in the UAE.
Initial signs are positive as I have just received news of the "Road to COP28" event taking place in the UAE towards raising awareness and mobilising an "all-of-society" effort towards COP28. It is interesting and encouraging to note the apparent similarity with the "Walk2COP27" event led by Sam Baker (who presented this to us in the PMI Belgium Nov 2022 special meeting on Climate Action).
I have been continuing my studies on Climate Science by following the "Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact" MOOC led by Climate guru Michael Mann. I was very happy to pass my mid-course assessment with a good rating and hope to conclude the course during March.
My summary last month was that the physics behind the global average temperature increase is relatively straightforward. In subsequent modules, I have been learning about more detailed impacts on the global climate.
I have found the course absolutely fascinating from a scientific perspective, if rather alarming from the perspective of the impact to the nature of our planet. The following points struck me in particular:
- Ice sheets are melting faster than previously thought:
Previous Climate models had not modelled the detailed physics of the ice melting process.
This may lead to faster than previously expected increases in sea level - possibly increasing by 2 metres by 2100. This is of course significant in "low lying" countries such as Belgium.
- The "AMOC" is weakening:
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC - also sometimes referred to as the "The Great Conveyor Belt ") is a flow of warm surface currents from the Pacific and Indian Oceans through to the Northern Atlantic, where the flow descends to the deeper ocean due the combined effects of salinity and cooling of the stream. The cooler, sub-surface stream then returns to the Indian and Pacific oceans.
The AMOC is weakening because of the combined effects of global warming and the freshwater from Greenland ice-melt reducing salinity. The AMOC could eventually stop - leading to significant and sudden changes in global heat distribution.
- El Niño will soon return:
For the last 3 years, during which we have been experiencing record summer temperatures, there has been a "La Niña" pattern in the Pacific Ocean - the effect is complex but generally leads to slowing of global temperature rise. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center has published an advisory note mentioning an expectation of reverting to El Niño conditions possibly already from Summer 2023.
This is likely to mean that even warmer Summers are approaching!
- Uncertainty is not our friend:
In the course, Michael Mann frequently uses the phrase "uncertainty is not our friend". This is partly because if we know for sure what climate conditions are coming, we can plan ahead, and start to adapt to the new situation. Also, where there has been past uncertainty in climate models, they have typically underestimated the climate impact (as an additional phenomenon had not been fully modelled).
The above points are certainly concerning; however, the scientific consensus is that it is not too late to act to help to mitigate the effects and associated uncertainty.
This is a convenient introduction to what we can be doing together as the PMI.
PMI Europe Climate Action
In the last month, Christine Dassy and I have reached out to the Presidents of the other European PMI Chapters to seek their participation in a call (scheduled for 29 Mar) in which we will explore whether there is interest to scale up PMI's Climate Action initiatives at a European level.
So far, we have received positive feedback from 8 Chapters, with hopefully more showing an interest. As part of the input to this initiative we have summarised the PMI Belgium activity as follows:
PMI Belgium Chapter – Progress up to Mar 2023:
PMI Belgium Chapter – Potential themes for 2023:
I hope to be bringing, in next month’s article, the news of a positive engagement with our PMI colleagues across Europe.
As with all of these newsletter articles, your feedback and comments are very welcome.
We'd also love to hear of your experiences in:
- delivering projects relating to sustainability
- delivering any projects in a more sustainable way.