Societal changes needed for global warming

Friday, 12 Oct, 2018

The special report on global warming by a United Nations body has set the tone for the upcoming climate conference in Poland where countries will now have to make efforts to align their pledges with the 1.5-degree celsius goal - a more stringent target than the existing agreement to limit average temperature rise within 2 degree celsius by 2100.

The atmosphere is nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) hotter than it was at the start of the industrial revolution, and burning more fossil fuels will accelerate the shift toward higher temperatures, the group said in its report.

Sea level rises would be 10cm lower with a 1.5C temperature rise compared to 2C by 2100, while there would be worse impacts on coral reefs and the Arctic at higher temperatures.

"Karachi and Kolkata can expect annual conditions equivalent to their deadly 2015 heat waves".

Not only does the report state the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, in the form of more severe storms and drought, but that the more consequential effects may start being felt as soon as 2030. It further stated that India is one of the countries which is at risk if the global average temperature breaches the 2℃ mark.

Temperatures are now about 1° C higher than preindustrial levels. However, limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5℃ as opposed to 2℃ can help in reducing poverty as well as reduce losses in yields of maize, rice, wheat and other cereal crops, mainly in Asia.

"The global community must emerge with critically important implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement", he said, adding that all countries now needed to "heed the counsel of the world's top scientists: raise ambition, rapidly strengthen their national climate action plans, and urgently accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement".

When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

Two decades. That's all the time world leaders have to reverse emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid inundating coastal cities, killing off coral reefs and their attendant marine wildlife, and potential food shortages, according to a new United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

To slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". The report is going to be discussed at a conference in Poland during the end of the year.

Transportation: In order to meet the 1.5C goal, the IPCC envisages a future where people travel less, and that generally consumer preferences shift to more sustainable choices like auto sharing and hybrid and electric cars.

University of New South Wales climate scientist Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick says "virtually all" coral reefs would start dying off if global temperatures increased by 2C. The 1.5℃ cap also fits with the sustainable development goals like those linked to hunger, poverty, sanitation etc.

"Any credible pathway to meeting the 1.5 degree scenario must focus on emissions rather than fuel", Katie Warrick, interim chief executive officer of the WCA, said after reviewing a draft of the report.

Envoys at the 2015 Paris talks asked the IPCC to study what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, a more ambitious goal than the previous 2-degree target. While global warming might not be explicitly visible today, it has been constantly shaping the world that we live in.

Buildings: While this section is less prescriptive, the IPCC suggests that people shift to more sustainable behavior when it comes to their homes, for example using smart thermostats or more efficient air conditioners.