Alarming portents from global warming report

Sergio Conner
October 10, 2018

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". At 2 degrees, that will be more like once per decade.

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. To give just one example, Yale scientists predict that the difference between a 1.5 degree and 2 degree rise in global temperatures could cut corn yields in parts of Africa by half.

As the newspaper noted, regular carbon dioxide emissions-which amount to more than 40 billion tons each year-would have to decline more than 1 billion tons annually over the next decade before we can even think about holding the world below 1.5℃.

Former Vice President Al Gore Jr. warned that "time is running out" after the release of a United Nations special report Sunday giving the world 12 years to head off climate calamity by radically transforming "all aspects of society". The US has been resisting large cuts in Carbon dioxide emissions.

Gore, not to waste an opportunity for partisanship, critiqued President Donald Trump for his lack of attention to climate issues, even though, despite pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords (which had no enforcement clause, anyway), the United States has made significant strides in curbing carbon emissions through technological advancement.

While more than 180 countries have accepted the report's summary, the USA (which is the second biggest emitter in the world) said that their acceptance of the report does not "imply endorsement" of the findings.

The scientists report that the level of warming will reach 1.5 degrees during the next thirty or so years at the current rate of greenhouse gas releases.

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While the report stressed that these methods "are at different stages of development and some are more conceptual than others, as they have not been tested at scale", the two main points of focus were increasing natural processes that already remove carbon from the atmosphere, and experimenting with carbon storage and removal technologies.

Meanwhile, the climate group 350.org said the report supports the call for a halt to the use of oil, gas and coal and a "rapid transition to energy systems based on 100% renewable energy". With a 2°C rise, the impacts can be too serious for communities to adapt.

Keeping the 1.5°C target would keep the global sea level rise 0.1m lower by 2100 than a 2°C target, the report said.

"Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems", the report said.

The report says the world will need an annual average investment of 2.4 trillion dollars between 2016 and 2035 (which is 2.5% of present world GDP) in energy system alone to limit the global warming to 1.5 degree celsius. That will cause coastlines to become inundated and storms more severe, intensifying poverty in coastal regions and islands, particularly in the tropics. One startup, Carbon Engineering Ltd. of Squamish, B.C., removes it directly from the air and uses it to produce biofuels.

Swiftly reducing emissions - even with carbon removal - will also require unprecedented levels of global cooperation, a particular challenge as some national governments, like that in the United States, look increasingly inward.

But success "depends on political leadership", he added. Given the vulnerability of India's population, aggressive action is an imperative, not an option.

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