'Unprecedented' Climate Action Needed To Save Planet, Dire Report Warns

Olive Hawkins
October 10, 2018

Temperatures would be 1.5C higher between 2030 and 2052 if the world continued at its current pace, it warned.

The report, which was authored by 91 scientists and review editors from 40 countries, cites over 6,000 scientific references, and represents the work of thousands of experts and government employees. It will be one of the main items discussed at a global conference in Poland in December, when governments will review the Paris Agreement (which the United States withdrew from in June 2017).

"This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5 degrees C global warming, including more heat waves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes", Andrew King, a climate science academic at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement to CNN.

Deep in the report, scientists say less than 2 percent of 529 of their calculated possible future scenarios kept warming below the 1.5 goal without the temperature going above that and somehow coming back down in the future.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", said Debra Roberts, an IPCC co-chair.

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

The new report has examined what will happen if the world warms by just 1.5 degrees, and it doesn't look good. 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.

Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C. "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".

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group says, "We've told you the scientific facts, the evidence, the cost, it is up to the governments now to decide what to do with it".

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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 said the efficacy of measures, such as planting forests, bioenergy use or capturing and storing CO2, were unproven at a large scale and carried some risks.

Individuals and civic groups have a big role to play in pushing governments to tackle climate threats, and are stepping up pressure as recognition of the danger grows, she said.

The report summary said renewable energy would need to supply 70 percent to 85 percent of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

"I would like to see climate change presented as what science is telling us rather than a political statement, which is what many in the U.S. are positioning it as", she added, referring to the Trump administration. And the report says, it would become impossible to produce enough food to feed the world's growing population.

That could reduce flooding and give the people that inhabit the world's coasts, islands and river deltas time to adapt to climate change.

In a report released late Sunday, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the global community still has a chance of limiting the average increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, a goal sanctioned by the Paris climate agreement three years ago. The report points out that carbon budgets are subject to high levels of uncertainty, related to gaps in the scientific understanding of climate system feedbacks and responses.

Global Warming of 1.5 °C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Cycle.

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