Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out

Elijah Vega | 09 October, 2018, 07:57

A new United Nations report warns of the unprecedented changes needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 Celcius above pre-industrial levels.

Several countries have advocated at the negotiations to implement the Paris Agreement that the goal should be shifted to keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius.

The report recommended far-reaching changes to land use, urban planning, infrastructure systems and energy use - changes that will be "unprecedented in terms of scale".

Countries must take "unprecedented" action to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and limit risky global warming, a key report warns.

"One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes", said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, tasked with assessing the physical science basis for climate change.

And if we hold warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees, the report suggests global sea level rise will be a whole 10 centimetres lower - potentially stopping what the report describes as a "disproportionately rapid evacuation" of people from the tropics.

Global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, researchers said, citing human activity and greenhouse gas emissions. (Here's a handy graphic to explain the differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of warming.) The IPCC's report drew information from more than 6,000 scientific studies and 132 authors. When water heats up, it expands meaning when oceans likely continue to rise, the IPCC says, we can expect the oceans to rise between 28 to 98cm by 2100, enough to swamp numerous cities along the USA east coast.

While 1.5°C rise in global temperature will be precarious, a 2°C rise would be catastrophic. "Even the scientists were surprised to see how much science was already there and how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2", Thelma Krug, vice-chair of the IPCC, told Reuters.

The IPCC's "Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees" was released in Incheon, South Korea, on Monday via a livestream Internet broadcast.

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The report identifies various routes by which emissions cuts would limit warming to 1.5℃; each makes assumptions about future changes in, for example, economic strategy, population growth and the rate at which low carbon energy is adopted.

Ministers now face calls to replace the current target of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 with a zero-carbon target in line with the 1.5C goal. And carbon dioxide emissions must reach net zero around 2075 - meaning the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere equals the amount being removed.

"Some people say the 1.5°C target is impossible", said Stephen Cornelius, WWF-UK's chief adviser for climate change, and a former IPCC negotiator.

A half a degree doesn't sound like much but whether it is coral reefs, crops, floods or the survival of species, everyone and everything is far better off in a world that keeps below 1.5C.

Johnny Chan Chung-leung, director of City University's Guy Carpenter Asia-Pacific Climate Impact Centre, said laws - rather than targets - that mandated a certain ratio of renewables in the power mix by a certain date were also necessary.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

The report was commissioned by world leaders as a part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global pact to battle global warming. Avoiding going even higher will require significant action in the next few years.

The latest research by the world's leading body on climate change highlighted that the promises countries have made so far to cut their emissions would put the world on track for 3C of warming by the end of the century.

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, earth could pass the 1.5 C marker as early as 2030, and no later than mid-century, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reports with "high confidence".

. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

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