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Brésil, Curitiba, Giec
The Paris Agreement sets the limit to the global temperature increase to “well below 2 °C” compared to the preindustrial era. A special IPCC report released on this Monday 8 October considers that we need to do our utmost to contain this increase to +1.5 °C. But what would two more degrees change in daily lives? Many things, as shown by this ordinary day transposed into a not so distant future in the life of Akissi Lefebvre, a young mother in Marseille.

Tuesday 13 July 2060. Forty-five years after the Paris Agreement which warned of the need to contain global warming below +2 °C by 2100, the limit has been exceeded and much sooner than the matrix defined by the agreement suggested. The massive, drastic and immediate transformations which should have been made back in 2025 to remain below these 2 °C have not been sufficient. And the harmful consequences of climate change have become part of the daily lives of each of the planet’s inhabitants.


For further reading: IPCC special report released on 8 October 2018


Akissi Lefebvre is 34. An IT developer of Ivorian origin, she is married to Leo Lefebvre, a 33 year-old teacher. Together, they have two daughters who are 4 and 6 and live in France, in Marseille. The Lefebvre’s apartment is air conditioned, like all the apartments in the region. This is an ecological heresy, but the young couple had no other choice: the average global warming of the planet of +2 °C leads to intense heatwaves which have become commonplace. Since the start of the summer, the thermometer has read about 43 °C in the shade in the city of Marseille. It is regularly hotter than 45 degrees and at night it is impossible to see the temperature fall to below 28 °C, meaning there is a permanent heatwave. Women, senior citizens, pregnant women: everyone suffers from the situation. The flora, fauna and the economy too.
 

Marseille, Giec
View of Marseille © Gabriela Fab / FlickR

 

The day before yesterday, Akissi got a text from her brother, who set out in the wine-growing sector in South Africa twenty years earlier: 

“Hi sister, just to tell you I’m throwing in the towel, it’s over.” 

The recurrent droughts striking the south of the continent have put paid to his passion: nothing grows there any more, obliging South Africa – like many other countries – to import 90% of its food at extortionate prices, as farmland is increasingly scarce on the Earth’s surface. The entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is now 89, has developed a system of intensive crops on Mars, but the outrageous prices of his giant tomatoes from space means they are exclusively for a super elite which Akissi’s family is not part of.

A white and dry season

The parents of Leo, enjoying a peaceful retirement in Cyprus, are thinking about packing their bags: running water is rationed and cut off several hours a day. The air has become dry and stifling. And the conflicts which are rife among their neighbors in the Middle East over the sharing of increasingly scarce freshwater resources does not look good to them. But they are also not really thrilled about the idea of finding themselves back in Paris where they come from: as a result of the changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulations, it is either 40 °C there, or extremely cold. And when the cold sets in in Europe, it is the heat which strikes the North Pole, causing even more ice to melt... More generally, Leo’s parents are faced with a dilemma: the hot regions are increasingly arid and the humid regions increasingly wetter. They like the countryside, but because of the melting of alpine glaciers, a number of regions have become flood-prone, in addition to coastal areas. This has meant that land prices have skyrocketed in areas spared by this risk, which it is impossible for individuals to fight.
 

Feu, California
Forest fire in California © Joel Duggan / FlickR

 

At the same time, their American friends settled in California are also looking for a roof over their heads: their house went up in flames during the last huge forest fire which devastated the State in June. There will soon be nothing left to burn, as over the years the flames have devoured the trees faster than they grow.  

 
The death of coral and its consequences
Corail, mort
Dead coral in the Agean Sea © David Stillman / FlickR

 

Akissi is an avid diver, but has decided to permanently put away her masks and snorkels for this year’s holidays: the coral reefs have practically disappeared from the Earth’s surface. For Akissi they are just holidays, but for the millions of residents of coastal regions of the planet, the disappearance of coral and the fish that used to live there means the loss of their employment, related to tourism or fishing, and a vital livelihood. 

In addition, the small island States are highly exposed to the extreme climate risks, such as torrential rains associated with hurricanes, as well as the rising sea levels. With the disappearance of coral, which acted as natural breakwater, the situation is getting worse. The rising water levels are a disaster for these territories: part of the islands of Polynesia, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands and certain Asian regions (Philippines, Indonesia) are already seeing their coasts eroded by the rising water levels. A total of 10,000 to 20,000 islands could disappear during the century. The rise in ocean levels also threatens a number of large coastal cities such as New York, Miami, Tokyo, Singapore, Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
 

ouragan, Haïti
The damage of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, 2016 © David Stillman / FlickR

 

France is not spared by the extreme climate events, which are more intense, more frequent and last longer: Leo, in his CE2 class, has joined protection classes in the event of storms, in accordance with the new guidelines of the Ministries of Climate Emergency and Education. These hurricanes, which used to remain confined to the tropics now regularly strike all parts of France, causing substantial material and human damage. No region of the world is spared. Everyone hopes they are just not in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Over 250 million “climate refugees”? 

Akissi’s parents are in the wrong place: in their village in the south of Côte d’Ivoire, the rains in this wet region have become torrential and continuous, clogging the soil, devastating crops and infrastructure. Akissi has started to take steps to bring her parents over to be with her and her children, who are overjoyed at the chance of soon living with their grandpa and grandma. Leo is a little more cautious, but he knows that his in-laws have little choice if they want to survive. Over 250 million “climate refugees” like them have already been forced to take to the roads. Host communities, which are already in a bad state, are suffering and poverty is skyrocketing as a result of these forced massive exiles. 

In the meantime, Akissi has other problems to manage: one of her daughters has just caught malaria at her summer camp in the south of Spain. Global warming increases both the areas and season of transmission of this disease, which is borne by mosquitos. But Akissi does not complain, she knows that there is worse: her second cousins who live in Mali are faced with malnutrition. A scourge that we thought was near eradication thirty years before and is returning more threatening than ever. 

The hot red sun falls on Marseille. The couple’s children are huddled up against their mum, while Leo does the washing up, puts the shopping away, prepares the children’s things for the next day, signs the parent-teacher notebook, makes an appointment with the dentist for the little one and remembers to get the advance ready to pay the babysitter. Akissi has chosen a big book called The Animals Disappeared from the World, which is updated every year. We come across the African elephant, the Chinese panda and Madagascar's lemurs... On each page, species from South America, Australia and New Zealand, where migrations are the most difficult for animals, fill this panorama of a bygone era. Through the bay window which looks out onto its overheated terrace, Akissi watches the blades turn on the marine wind turbines which crisscross the horizon, like a drowning person calling out for help.
 

Radical changes

The experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported their conclusions on this Monday 8 October on the consequences of a global warming of 1.5 °C and the means that need to be implemented to limit the impact of climate change.

The special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), presented on Monday 8 October in Incheon in South Korea, blows hot and cold. Hot: there is still hope to limit global warming to 1.5 °C compared to the preindustrial period, an increase which already significantly weakens ecosystems and human activity. Cold: the maximum alert threshold has been reached. To hope to save the planet, we need to take swift, massive and collective action.

The Paris Agreement, concluded in December 2015 during COP21, plans to contain the rise in the average temperature of the planet “well below 2 °C compared to preindustrial levels” by 2100. The lobbying of the most threatened countries, particularly the island States, has allowed a mention to be added on the need to “limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C”. The special report of the IPCC on “the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways” stems from this requirement.

The hundred or so authors and 6,000 scientific studies mobilized have given rise to a 400-page document intended for 195 governments. Its message is clear: climate change already has real consequences for populations, and each additional half degree is of paramount importance on the effects observed.

Since the preindustrial era, the global temperature has already risen by about 1 °C. The margin is therefore minimal. According to the assumptions of the authors of the report, at the current rate, the threshold of 1.5 °C will be exceeded between 2030 and 2052. Quoted by Le Monde, the Co-Chair of the IPCC climate science working group warns: “We are at a crossroads. Worlds at +1.5 °C or +2 °C will be very different”, explains Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “Containing global warming requires highly ambitious actions in all fields – energy, industry, land management, buildings, transport, urban planning –, which means a radical change in behavior and ways of life. If we do not take action by 2030, the door will close.