United Nations panel urges fast action to avoid climate catastrophe

10 October, 2018, 01:01 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Catherine McKenna

Dramatically reducing the use of coal, planting huge swathes of land with carbon-absorbing forest or powering most transport with electricity are no longer sufficient to bring about the swift transition needed, they said, with warming expected to pass the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) mark in as little as 12 years.

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

The report is the main scientific guide for governments on how to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, agreed by almost 200 nations, and will be debated at the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.

"Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C", the report, launched today in Incheon, South Korea, concludes. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050.

The IPCC warns, however, there is a stark difference between 1.5 and even 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

We must limit global warming to 1.5°C rather than the previously agreed cap of 2°C to avoid extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, according to a landmark climate report released this morning.

Asked about reports of the U.S. stand on the crucial report, AK Mehta, an additional secretary at the environment ministry, says, "India recognises climate change to be a real threat and we will do whatever we can in our own capacity".

If emissions can't be cut to a sufficient degree, researchers will need to devise effective methods of removing Carbon dioxide from the air, such as devoting land to growing trees and biofuel crops, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN Environment Program, tells The Washington Post.

The report further revealed that global warming has already had an effect in regions across the world.

"Let's not forget that Australia accounts for just over one per cent of global emissions, so there are a lot bigger players than us out there impacting on these arrangements", the PM said.

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"It's telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime", Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report, told The New York Times.

The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre- industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels".

One of the authors of the report quoted earlier, who did not wish to be named, said, "The US had issues with the conclusions, but finally the report were endorsed by all nations". "But doing so would require unprecedented changes".

If temperatures are allowed to rise to 2C, coral reefs will be wiped out, sea levels will rise by 10cm and 10 million more people will be exposed to flooding, the researchers warn. It would also cut down on species loss and extinction and reduce the impact on various ecosystems.

Below is some background about the IPCC and the report.

Not acting to keep the temperatures under check would have many damaging consequences the scientists noted.

"The coal industry has no role in a climate-stable world", said Jan Erik Saugestad, chief executive officer of Norway's Storebrand Asset Management, which oversees US$88 billion.

The report also flags up how people could take the initiative by changing their lifestyles, from what they eat to how they travel and heat their homes. This would require all countries to enhance their existing emission reduction targets under the agreement for the period starting 2020.

The Greens recently tabled a motion at City Hall that the council should consider preparing a climate change adaption strategy.

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