Planetary Boundaries and Earth’s Future
Johan Rockström Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor in Earth System Science at the University of Potsdam
Hiroko Kuniya Anchor, Executive director of the Asahi Shimbun SDGs project
Now is the time to set an “end date” for dependence on fossil fuels
Regarding the present situation concerning climate change and measures to be taken to mitigate global warming, Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research, and anchor Hiroko Kuniya had a conversation. Mr. Rockström participated in the event online from Germany, being unable to attend at the venue for personal reasons.
Ms. Kuniya asked Mr. Rockström about the impact of global warming in terms of the damage caused by Typhoon No. 19, to which Mr. Rockström replied: “It can be said that we are reinforcing and amplifying natural disasters. The rise in the sea temperature gave more energy to the typhoon.”
Subsequently, Professor Rockström gave an explanation about “Planetary Boundaries,” or the idea that when we exceed certain levels regarding nine parameters, we will face irrevocable changes that might threaten the very existence of humankind. Specifically, he listed ice sheets and tropical rain forests as examples, warning, “We are undergoing huge changes and may arrive at the biggest tipping point.”
In order to suppress the rise in temperature since the industrial revolution to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, it is necessary to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero in 2050, for which the emissions should be reduced by 6 to 7% annually, according to Professor Rockström. Ms. Kuniya outlined the present situation, where the reduction of CO2 emissions has not been achieved, and asked the professor whether such a reduction was truly possible. He said that it was a big challenge, and proposed a carbon tax on fossil fuel consumption and that an “end date” be set for new investments in fossil fuels to stop our dependence on them.
He said that Japan and Germany, which are highly dependent on fossil fuels, had a fundamental responsibility regarding this issue.
One of the junior high school students in the audience raised a question about the environment at the end of the 21st century, when she would be 90 years old. Replied the professor: “In a worst-case scenario, a hot-house earth would become the reality, but we can prevent this from happening. We should make a decision now, in order to put an end to the temperature curve within a 10-year window.”
Ms. Kuniya concluded by saying, “The issue of global warming poses a climate crisis. Strong leadership is required in politics as well as in the private sector and civil society.”
Johan Rockström: Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Born in 1965. As a leading researcher on global environmental issues, warned the world about these issues using his “Planetary Boundaries” concept. Assumed his present position in 2018.
Hiroko Kuniya: News presenter. Hosted the NHK program Close-up Gendai (Today’s Close-up) from 1993 to March 2016. Executive director of the Asahi Shimbun SDGs project.