Half a Degree Centigrade: The Challenge for the COP24 Climate talks in Poland.


UN Climate Talks in Katowice No. 1

Nov. 29, 2018

“I am both deeply honored and a bit nervous to be Rotary’s first observer delegate to the UN Climate talks, which are being held during COP24, Katowice, Poland, Dec. 2-14, 2018. By observing and reporting back, I hope to increase Rotarians’ understanding of the opportunities and risks of climate change and how we may engage to offer solutions.” 
Karen Kendrick-Hands, Co-Founder and Immediate Past Chair of ESRAG,
RC Madison, WI USA, D 6250

A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urgently states that the world must reduce carbon pollution rapidly over the next 12 years, to stop the increase in warming to 1.5°C, because the previous goal of 2°C additional warming is not ambitious enough to protect us.  But just how important is half a degree? 

If you are heating water, the difference of half a degree Centigrade means boiling or not. At 0.5°C, the sidewalk is merely wet, but  at 0°C, the path is icy and dangerous. When a sick child’s temperature is half a degree centigrade higher, the anxious parent calls the doctor. If you are Planet Earth, unable to just toss aside the ever-increasing blanket of greenhouse gases that overheats our land and seas, it means we are well on our way to have disrupted the climate to which all of the circle of life has adapted. I will be learning how and why and what each of us can do to stop the warming at 1.5°C to help earth’s ecosystems and our civilization avoid the harsher impacts caused by a 2°C global average temperature rise. 

I am preparing to attend the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC. I am honored to represent Rotary International for the first time through Rotary’s official NGO observer status. As I pack business clothes in Rotary colors, and work through my reading list, I think about how best to inform Rotarians about the risks and opportunities presented by the humanitarian crisis of climate change and how we can ‘Be The Inspiration’ to help solve this crisis.

The core mandate of this 24th meeting of the governmental parties is “to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” This is an enormous challenge because there is a large and growing gap between what most every country volunteered to do to limit the warming to 2°C, and reductions that have actually been made.

UNEP notes that the analysis in the Emissions Gap Report and a review of progress against national commitments under the Paris Agreement makes clear that the current pace of national action is insufficient to meet the targets set at the 2015 COP21, in Paris. Increased emissions and lagging action means the gap number in this year’s report is larger than ever. Translated into climate action, the authors conclude nations must raise their ambition by 3x to meet the 2°C and 5x to meet 1.5°C. 

I will be posting frequently with observations and questions as I observe the Climate talks through the lens of Rotary: Service above Self, the 4-Way Test, and how stabilizing our climate is crucial to making progress in all Six of the Areas of Focus and ending polio now.  Please follow me on my journey, adding your comments and questions.  

This is our opportunity as Rotarians to ‘Be The Inspiration’ and help provide solutions to Climate Change in every project we design, the way we operate our clubs and districts, and the daily business and personal decisions we make.