Climate change is far worse and happening far faster than anyone can believe. The UN’s IPCC has issued a shocking new report outlining the danger looming over us. We must reduce fossil fuel burning and land use changes enormously by 2030 to avoid the absolute worst of climate change impacts: we have 12 years to save ourselves. If we do not, then the next best hope is to limit warming by 2C – with all the incredibly negative impacts that come with it. Any future beyond a 2C increase is not worth imagining. This report says with the most clarity ever: the fossil fuel era must end within 30 years.
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.
“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”
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FROM THE AP: To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050. Emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also will have to drop. Switching away rapidly from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to do this could be more expensive than the less ambitious goal, but it would clean the air of other pollutants. And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the report said.
MORE From The Guardian: Political leaders have been urged to act on the landmark special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has warned that strong efforts would be required to prevent disastrous consequences from dangerous levels of climate change.
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who led the historic Paris agreement of 2015, said: “There is nothing opaque about this new data. The illustrations of mounting impacts, the fast-approaching and irreversible tipping points are visceral versions of a future that no policy-maker could wish to usher in or be responsible for.”
Figueres said the need for urgent action was clear: “Emissions reductions today are much more important than emissions reductions tomorrow. The sooner we bend the curve of global emissions, the more options we will have on the table for safely reaching the necessary, desirable and achievable carbon neutrality by 2050.”
The decisions taken in the next few years will be crucial because the investment cycle for power plants and transport systems is at least 10 years. Infastructure built now will continue to burn up carbon for decades to come if it is not re-engineered.
“This is the decisive decade,” said Johan Rockström, chief scientist at Conservation International and co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, which warned of a domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile. “Any investment in energy has a 10-year lifecycle. Even a family car: 1.5C has become real.”
“Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful,” he told the Guardian. “This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.”