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Sacred Earth, Sacred Trust - 1.5 to Stay Alive

Sacred Earth, Sacred Trust - 1.5 to Stay Alive

Funafuti Beach in Tuvalu

This is a time to celebrate the historic steps made toward combatting climate change, with the first ever international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep temperature rise to just 1.5°C. Jewish tradition teaches our responsibility to be stewards of the environment and the importance of preserving the earth for future generations. Therefore, in addition to celebrating this historic achievement, we must also take action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals set in Paris.

The following was written by Reverend Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith.

During the week of June 12, six months after the Paris Agreement, we are mobilizing people of all faiths from around the world to send a message to world leaders through a global mobilization called Sacred Earth, Sacred Trust. The message: we must accelerate our response to climate change in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

In the 1990s, a scientific consensus emerged that a 2°C temperature rise was a safe limit to global warming. 350 became the best known number in the climate movement because an atmospheric concentration of no more than 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 provides a two-thirds chance to keep temperatures below this level. Currently, CO2 levels top 400 ppm.

However, there has always been concern that 2°C was too high. Least developed countries and small island states argued that 2°C meant the sacrifice of their homelands. They were joined by advocates for the poor, faith communities, and other experts who argued for a 1.5°C level, and further supported by a 2015 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Last December at COP 21 in Paris, to the surprise of pundits and politicians alike, an alliance of over 150 countries came together in support of the 1.5°C target. As a result, in the Paris Agreement governments agreed to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

On April 21, 2016, the day before Earth Day and the signing of the Paris Agreement, a study in Earth System Dynamics laid out the catastrophic difference between 1.5°C and 2°C. The study considered 11 indicators, such as extreme weather events, water availability, crop yields, coral reef degradation and sea-level rise. The result? A seemingly insignificant half degree makes all the difference in the world.

A half-degree of extra warming will double the number of water shortages in the Mediterranean region by the century’s end. Staple crop yields in Central America and West Africa will drop by 50%. Sea levels will rise an additional ten centimeters by 2100, threatening the actual viability of many of the world’s largest cities, such as Bangkok and its 8.5 million inhabitants. All coral reefs, home to much of the oceans’ biodiversity and the source of protein and livelihood for over half a billion people, will face “severe degradation.” All these impacts show the contrast between 1.5°C and 2°C.

These impacts are a litany of lamentation and suffering. They spell disaster for the world’s poorest communities. Under any standard of decency, they are tragic, abhorrent and unacceptable.

As seen in Huffington Post Religion. For the full article and local events, click here.


Published: 5/31/2016