'Unprecedented' climate steps are needed, United Nations says

10 October, 2018, 07:25 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

On current trends the 1.5°C threshold could be reached as early as 2030.

"One of the major issues is that there would be 420 million people less suffering because of climate change if we would be able to limit the warming to 1.5-degree level".

Efforts to curb climate change must also extend beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement reached among 197 countries - which President Trump withdrew the U.S. from in June 2017.

The report released this week was written by 91 co-authors from 40 countries, cited more than 6,000 references and incorporated 42,000 comments from governments and experts.

The 33-page summary includes the explicit warnings yet about the consequences of allowing global temperatures to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A number of climate change impacts could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more, the report found.

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

Average global temperatures have already soared by an average of 1 degree since the start of the 20th century.

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. Coral reefs, which risk decline by more than 99% at 2C, would reduce by 70 to 90%.

"And now more than ever we know that every bit of warming matters", Krug said. A problem with the Paris accord is that the pledges made do not get the world anywhere near cutting carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, which is what is needed to curb warming to 1.5C.

Action in cities - which consume more than two-thirds of energy globally and account for about three-quarters of carbon emissions - are pivotal to meeting the target, said report author William Solecki, a professor at Hunter College-City University of NY.

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This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing Carbon dioxide from the air.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or "overshoot" 1.5 °C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove Carbon dioxide from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5 °C by 2100.

But the report adds: "The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development".

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. "What we've done is said what the world needs to do", Imperial College London's Jim Skea, cochair of the IPCC panel, said at a press conference.

Making an unprecedented call to action, the United Nations' climate panel said that to avoid catastrophe, all countries must change the way their people eat, commute, farm and build - and the changes must kick in right away.

"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 was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups.

"Within the next decade or so, we will need to radically change the way we build our houses, move from one place to another and grow our food", said 350.org in a statement.

The goal of the global Paris climate agreement, which was signed in 2015, was to keep the world's temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.

Overall, the authors say that current greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030.

Acting shadow climate change minister Penny Wong said the Government's own data showed it would fail to meet its "already inadequate" Paris targets.

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