Monday, 10 December, 2018

Time Is Running Out To Control Climate Change, U.N. Report Says

The Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017 The Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017. AAP
Elijah Vega | 10 October, 2018, 02:45

While an extra half a degree over that limit of 1.5 degrees might seem insignificant‚ a shocking landmark report just released by the United Nations has taken the world by storm‚ showing how hitting a 2 degree rise would spell doom.

Coral reefs would decline by 70 per cent to 90 per cent at 1.5 deg C, whereas virtually all would be lost at 2 deg C.

In the IPCC's most ambitious pathway, global net human-caused emissions of Carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050.

The unprecedented changes called for by the group include transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

The report notes that there are historic precedents for the speed we need, although not for the scale of required mitigation. For instance, by 2100, the global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C.

"Keeping warming below 1.5C will be very, very hard", said Dessler.

The world is already one degree warmer than it was when we started burning fossil fuels and we're feeling it.

A world with 2°C of warming will be a planet without coral reefs.

While warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels has widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which risky climate change will occur, vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

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"The next few years are probably the most important in human history", Debra Roberts, head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in Durban, South Africa, and an IPCC co-chair, told AFP news agency.

The report, fully titled as Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, can found on the IPCC website.

In addition, insects and plants will be almost twice as likely to lose half of their habitat if global temperatures rose by 2°C as compared to if they went up by 1.5°C. However, by 2°C, it is nearly certainly game over for over 99 percent of the world's coral reefs.

The pledges nations made in the Paris agreement in 2015 are "clearly insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 in any way", one of the study's lead authors, Joerj Roeglj of the Imperial College in London, said.

"The world we know today is not the world we will see in 50 years" if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, warned Debora Ley, one of 91 authors of the report looking at the feasibility of holding temperature rise to the most ambitious target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: "The bill doesn't commit to the action necessary to limit warming to 1.5C, it doesn't deliver on the Paris Agreement, and it doesn't deliver on Nicola Sturgeon's promise to ensure that Scotland plays our full part in tackling this global problem". "But it will require unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas".

Limiting warming to the lower goal is "not impossible but will require unprecedented changes", United Nations panel chief Hoesung Lee said in a news conference in which scientists repeatedly declined to spell out just how feasible that goal is.

According to the report, there are two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere: increasing natural processes that already do this, and experimental carbon storage or removal technologies.

Of course, these two methods will need a lot of global political engagement in an increasingly short time, and with certain big player administrations like Trump's now stalling worldwide cooperation, that 2030 deadline is looking more and more ominous. Despite the report's dire warnings, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration's stance on this issue. But news out Monday adds to growing evidence that it's becoming a long-risk factor that investors shouldn't ignore.

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