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2023 is virtually certain to be the hottest year on record for at least 125,000 years (for reference, agricultural activity began about 12,000 years ago). This year is one in a series in the long-term trend of human-induced climate change.
According to projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this trend will continue until at least 2050, the first year in which global greenhouse gas emissions could reach net zero (all remaining emissions being offset by removals). In this most ambitious case of emissions reductions, global temperatures would stabilize at around 1.5°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels, and the longer it takes to reach net-zero, the higher the temperature rises will be.
In Luxembourg, temperatures increased by 1.5°C between the periods 1861-1890 and 1991-2020, and the ten hottest years occurred between 2002 and 2022. Faster temperature increases in Luxembourg as compared to the global average of 1.1°C over a similar period are to be expected because land surfaces are warming faster than oceans.
The impacts of climate change are expected to increase with every tenth of a degree of warming. Under current climate policies, a person born in 2020 is expected to experience three times as many climate-related disasters as a person born in 1960. This includes 7.5 times as many heat waves, 3.6 times as many droughts and 2.8 times as many river floods.
An ambitious global climate policy that limits global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would greatly reduce this exposure, almost halving the number of heatwaves.
The IPCC concluded that ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources are already being affected by climate change at current levels of temperature increase, together with pressures from human activities. These impacts will increase in the future, and at 1.5°C global warming some natural systems will reach a point where they can no longer adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Under current climate policies, a person born in 2020 is expected to experience three times as many crop failures and twice as many forest fires as a person born in 1960. The collapse of the global food chain in individual years cannot be excluded, if global warming reaches 2°C.Luxembourg's forests are already suffering from the effects of climate change, particularly the increase in droughts. As the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere is an important element to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest (as required by the Luxembourg Climate Law), healthy forests and biodiversity must be maintained.
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, a rapid transition to climate-resilient lifestyles is essential. This includes technologies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, such as the development of renewable energy, as well as switching to heating and transport systems that do not rely on fossil fuels.
However, technological changes alone will not make this transformation possible; individual lifestyle changes will be needed. For transport, this includes a shift to walking, cycling and public transport, which are also healthier. Changing to a healthier diet, more vegan or vegetarian, can also have co-benefits for health and greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, consumption is also a driver of greenhouse gas emissions and needs to be reduced. Moving to a more circular economy, where equipment and materials are reused as much as possible and recycled when no longer usable.
About the blog:
There is an urgent need for rapid transition to global sustainability. Business and industry have enormous social and environmental impacts. "Why does it matter?" is a bi-monthly blog that aims to elucidate this important topic through the eyes of our experts.
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