The South African government readily accepts that climate change is happening but appears oblivious to the immediate urgency of responding to climate change. On present trends, the world is heading for 2°C before 2050 and 1.5°C in the 2030s. It is unlikely that the international and national political and economic order will survive 2°C or that adaptation will be effective.
In July 2018, scientists from leading climate institutions warned of “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilisation of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced”. They emphasise that cascading feedbacks – where crossing one tipping point sets off the next – may be triggered at between 1.5° and 2°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures. This is runaway climate change leading to unliveable ‘hothouse earth’ conditions.