Alarming portents from global warming report

Gas boiler

Gas boiler

Scientists have been sounding the alarm on climate change for decades, yet global emissions are expected to rise again in 2018. Most argument since has centered on the fact that our actions haven't been sufficient to reach that goal. As it stands, only a handful of nations are even on track to hit their Paris benchmarks. Low-lying island nations, for example, weren't satisfied with negotiating toward a goal that might not even save them.

"Oil use is reduced consistently across most of 1.5°C scenarios, about a 30 to 80 percent reduction from 2010 levels in 2050.

Indeed, they are not enough for any appropriately ambitious temperature target, given what we know about unsafe climate impacts already unfolding even at lower temperature thresholds", Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), wrote ahead of its release.

"The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has served us a final warning that we must get our act together - now and quickly", said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, in response to the release of the Panel's latest study. "Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degree Celsius between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate". Working Group I assessed the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addressed impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III dealt with the mitigation of climate change. A rise to 2ºC could completely wipe out ecosystems and impact human health. "Only with a radical transformation of our energy, food and economic systems, embracing environmental, social, gender and economic justice, can we prevent climate catastrophe and temperature rises exceeding 1.5°C". Coral reefs have a particularly dire outlook.

The IPCC report said that to keep warming at 1.5°C global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 percent by 2030 and be "net zero" by 2050.

Sea level rises would be 10cm lower with a 1.5C temperature rise compared to 2C by 2100, while there would be worse impacts on coral reefs and the Arctic at higher temperatures.

"This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people's needs", she said.

Professor Piers Forster, a leading author of the report who lectures at the University of Leeds, said current policies put the world on course for a "super-risky 3C of warming", adding: 'The report shows that limiting warming to 1.5C is barely feasible and, every year we delay, the window of feasibility halves. The bad news is that it would still require a Herculean effort.

Carbon emissions need to reach "net zero" by 2050 and almost halve from 2010 levels by 2030. Any additional carbon dioxide emissions would require removing the harmful gas from the air. It would involve upscaling of low-carbon technologies in all carbon-intensive sectors of the economy, energy efficiency and enhancement of carbon sinks for sequestering carbon globally. Coal would have to be a relic of the past. But it is not just electricity: transport, buildings and industry would have to become significantly cleaner.

The larger import of the finalised report's findings was not much different from that of the drafts that had leaked out earlier, though the negotiations between government representatives and scientists did end up substantially altering how much confidence the governments placed on different findings based on the scientific evidence underlying the summarised take-aways. "There's certainly things that we'll need to invest in more to develop the next generation of solutions".

Limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 °C could also protect several hundred million people, including those living in some of the least developed countries, from slipping into poverty and disadvantage by 2050 due to climate-related risks, as would be the case under the 2°C scenario. One recent report calculated the benefits at $26 trillion. And with scientists and government officials raising global alarm bells, perhaps there is hope that we can yet forestall the devastation.

In an IPCC press conference Monday morning in Korea, Imperial College London's Jim Skea took a question about the importance of reforestation vs. fossil fuel cuts as an opportunity to summarize the report's basic message: "S$3 aying "option x or option y" is not the way that this report is framed".

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