Paradigm Shift Needed to Avert Chaos — UN Climate Report

Tuesday, 09 Oct, 2018

The world's leading climate change scientists are warning that if global temperatures go up by 1.5 degrees, there'll be unprecedented levels of flooding, drought, wildfires and food shortages affecting billions of people.

Another recent report from the consulting firm PwC makes it clear that even limiting warming to 2 degrees C will be a stretch: "There seems to be nearly zero chance of limiting warming to well below two degrees (the main goal of the Paris Agreement), though widespread use of carbon capture and storage technologies, including Natural Climate Solutions, may make this possible", it says.

The Paris Agreement asked the IPCC to report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5℃, and this new publication is the result. The report was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday.

Ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries prepared the IPCC report in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities, the report says.

The Nobel Prize-winning organisation said that the world was well off track in its goal of limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5ºC and heading for 2ºC or more.

The report also found global sea level rises would be 10 centimetres lower by 2100 with global warming of 1.5 degrees compared with 2 degrees.

The Arctic could experience ice-free summers once every decade or two in a 2 °C world, versus once in a century at 1.5 °C. Even if the world limits global warming to 1.5°C, it is a pretty bleak situation for coral reefs as we can expect to see a further 70 to 90 percent loss of cover.

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an worldwide panel of scientists reported Sunday.

There is some good news. Rather, it states with a high degree of confidence that "human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C".

It would not require a temporary "overshoot" of the 1.5°C threshold, and does not depend on sucking vast quantities of CO2 out of the air, known as carbon dioxide removal, or "negative emissions".

To limit global warming to 1.5 degree C is "possible within the laws of chemistry and physics", said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. Coral reefs would have a chance to survive.

But the report warned such techniques were still unproven at a large scale and could carry significant risks for sustainable development. Trillions of dollars will soon be invested in new infrastructure; if we make the wrong choices, they'll be locked in, according to the same recent report.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", she said.

"The policy implications of the report are obvious: We need to implement a suite of policies to sharply limit carbon emissions and build climate resilience, and we must do all this is in a way that prioritizes equitable outcomes particularly for the world's poor and marginalized communities", Cleetus added. The IPCC report makes it clear that the time for talking is over - this is literally a matter of life and death.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015, and created to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. Global warming is expected to exceed 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2052 if it continues at current rates, reinforcing the urgency of emissions cuts. "Human-induced warming has already reached about 1°C (1.8°F) above pre-industrial levels at the time of writing of this Special Report".