Current estimates suggest that world carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – will rise by 16% between now and 2030. Over the same period, the average global temperature will increase by between 0.5°C and 1.5°C – that’s on top of a 0.5°C rise already seen over the past 20 years.
The global population will also continue to expand, reaching an estimated 8.3 billion by 2030, boosting global demand for energy, water and food. This ‘pincer movement’ of rising temperatures and rapid population growth puts mankind at a defining moment in its history.
Why? Because, in many parts of the world, the impacts of climate change will include increases in extreme weather, rising sea levels and intensifying water shortages. And these effects will make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as in the past – at a time when there are ever more mouths to feed.
Reconciling these conflicting pressures will demand tough decisions. For example, as fossil fuels become depleted, biofuels offer a way to produce more energy with less carbon impact. But there is only so much land and water available – and these are also urgently needed for food production. Such dilemmas have no easy answers.