Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

Pat Wise
October 10, 2018

The special report - published Monday by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - assessed what it will take to limit global temperature increase to no more than 2.7º F (1.5º C) above preindustrial levels, in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels had widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which unsafe climate change will occur, but vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

"We are already seeing the consequences of 1C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes", Professor Panmao Zhai, a co-chair of the IPCC, said.

If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically and rapidly, between 2030-52, Earth's global average temperatures could rise by 1.5 degree above pre-industrial era levels, leading to widespread climate change impacts.

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.

Camera IconFederal Environment Minister Melissa Price.

In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the historic Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals: 2 degrees C and a more demanding target of 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial times.

Labor and the Greens signalled that climate change was a likely election battleground.

Starting in 1994, a central aim of the UN's climate change efforts (the Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC) was to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would "prevent risky anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed that the report did not "provide recommendations to Australia" and his Government's focus would be ensuring that electricity prices were lower for households and small businesses. Then by 2050, we'd have to reduce emissions to zero.

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"Keeping warming below 1.5C will be very, very hard", said Dessler.

But it adds if temperatures rise by 2C, the effects will be more pronounced and more people will be put at risk of poverty and water stress, with higher health risks.

The report calls for immediate and radical action by all global governments, saying the required actions are affordable and feasible but require ambition and dedication.

"You don't want to live in a 2°C world", Hunter Cutting, Director of Strategic Communications at Climate Nexus who observed the IPCC plenary, told IFLScience.

The reports warns "unprecedented action" is need to make sure global temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees, including human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reducing by 45 percent by 2030, with that figure going to near-zero by 2050.

In the report, issued Monday, scientists describe a harrowing tale of increased food shortages, wildfires and the end of coral reefs, a critical resource for the habitation of many marine animals.

At that point we'd be feeling the pressure of more intense natural disasters, but go half a degree warmer, to 2C, and 10 million more people would affected by sea level rises and an extra 1.7 billion people exposed to extreme heat waves.

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an worldwide panel of scientists reported Sunday.

Phasing out the burning of coal, the most carbon-intensive form for power generation, nearly entirely by the middle of the century. Global warming of 1.5°C may force many marine species to relocate to higher altitudes and deal a blow to many ecosystems. 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. We also will need to rely on carbon removal-whether that's as low-tech as planting trees or using new technology like direct air capture that can suck CO2 from the atmosphere.

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