Terrifying climate change warning: 12 years until we’re doomed

James Marshall
October 9, 2018

Low-lying island nations, for example, weren't satisfied with negotiating toward a goal that might not even save them. These include impacts such as "unique and threatened ecosystems and cultures" (such as coral reefs) and "extreme weather events", each of which is rated on a scale from "undetectable" to "very high".

A half a degree doesn't sound like much but whether it is coral reefs, crops, floods or the survival of species, everyone and everything is far better off in a world that keeps below 1.5C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has effectively delivered a final call on world leaders to take urgent action to stop the planet from overheating.

We have just twelve years before a catastrophic environmental breakdown is inevitable, unless we radically change the way we live now.

Since the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull abandoned the emissions reduction component of the Coalition's national energy guarantee, Australia has been left without a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, when the renewable energy target will expire. But when you put numbers on these things, some effects are particularly notable, and the roadmap to emissions cuts becomes crystal clear. "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". As many as 10 million fewer people would be exposed to risks like flooding. Heat waves, heavy precipitation, and regional droughts increase steeply, along with their related human health impacts. Ecosystems, too, would benefit greatly from limiting warming. Coral reefs would nearly entirely disappear with 2 degrees of warming, with just 10-30% of existing reefs surviving at 1.5 °C.

A landmark United Nations report paints a dire picture of the catastrophic consequences the world will face if immediate action is not taken to limit the global warming to 1.5°C, warning that at 2°C, the world could see 10 cm more global sea level rise, loss of all coral-reefs and worsening food shortages.

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

Considering the scale and intensity of devastation that 1.5°C temperature rise can cause, the focus of the upcoming discussions must only be on this target instead of 2°C as only the rich would survive in a world that is warmer by 2°C and the poor would be drowned. The report shows a number of technically possible pathways to cut emissions quickly enough to stabilize Earth's climate at 1.5°C, but the margins are bloody thin.

The IPCC report noted the world is rapidly losing any chance to limit average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, though there is still a theoretical chance if the political will existed. But, these actions also require a significant effort.

To ensure the planet is liveable, global Carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and renewables must provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050 to meet targets. By 2050, we would have to hit net zero emissions-any remaining emissions would have to be counteracted by active removal of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In that scenario, some damage would be irreversible, the report found. "The only way to achieve it is to stop all fossil fuel extraction and redirect the massive resources now spent on the fossil fuel economy towards the renewable energy transition". Coal would have to be a relic of the past. "Going beyond the electricity system, we should explore the relationship between nuclear and producing hydrogen through electrolysis to provide decarbonised fuel for heat, transport and industry".

Based on more than 6 000 peer-reviewed studies, the 20-page bombshell will make for grim reading when it is released on Monday. Different set of actions lead to varying costs of action, impacts for different countries.

"1.5 degrees is the new 2 degrees", Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, told The Washington Post after attending the finalisation of the IPCC report in Incheon, the Republic of Korea. We can't find any historical analogies for it.

The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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