Limiting warming to 1.5°C possible, will save 420m people

Sergio Conner
October 10, 2018

Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence, said the ongoing political fight over carbon pricing and criticism of Liberal energy policies is scaring the government into being more timid about its climate plan, while the report shows being timid is not going to cut it.

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.

While much has been said about the need to limit global warming temperatures - what exactly is the difference between 2C and 1.5C and how does it impact the world?

Asked about reports of the United States 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".

The world will see catastrophic effects of climate change if temperatures climb to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, according to a new report.

Unless action is taken, more extreme weather events are expected including winter storms and drought, with hundreds of millions of people put at risk of poverty and some small island states facing the prospect of being wiped out as sea levels rise.

A world with 2°C of warming will be a planet without coral reefs.

"Limiting warming to 1.5º C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes", said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III.

Key points in the report include maintaining the current global temperature at 1.5ºC.

Such a goal that would require trillions of dollars to achieve " "rapid and far-reaching" transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities", including using unproven technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Human-produced Carbon dioxide emissions would have to drop by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" by 2050, according to the report. "The latter would be used as part of a now nonexistent program to get power from trees or plants and then bury the resulting carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, leading to a net subtraction of the gas from the air - bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS".

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One startup, Carbon Engineering Ltd. of Squamish, B.C., removes it directly from the air and uses it to produce biofuels. Given the vulnerability of India's population, aggressive action is an imperative, not an option.

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So how can we make sure that warming does not exceed 1.5°C and take us into highly unsafe territory?

Although he didn't specify which reports he was referring to, he has often cited research by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation when trying to make the case that cutting carbon emissions would have little effect on global temperatures.

The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", she added. Scientists have warned that the enormous changes in energy, transportation and land use required to meet this goal are technically possible, but now appear unlikely.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

The report lists various scenarios that might occur if the world hit 2 degrees of warming.

Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change.

At the Paris Agreement in 2015‚ 2 degrees was set as the ceiling we should aim to stay under‚ but that has now shifted to 1.5 degrees.

The study was urgent because CO2, the main greenhouse gas, reached record levels in the atmosphere past year, and current pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement would lead to warming of about 3 deg C. The report said warmer water coral reefs "will largely disappear".

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