United Nations report on climate change sets off alarm bells

Cesar Mills
October 11, 2018

"It's telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime", Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report, told The New York Times.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released a special report on global warming of 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures.

So far, temperatures have increased around 1% since the second half of the 19th century.

Earth is already two-thirds of the way to reaching this disastrous level, and according to co-chair of the IPCC, Panmao Zhai, the planet is already feeling the effects through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea. 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.

Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence, said the ongoing political fight over carbon pricing and criticism of Liberal energy policies is scaring the government into being more timid about its climate plan, while the report shows being timid is not going to cut it. The Paris agreement committed to limit warming to well below 2 degrees, and pursue the even harder goal to limit it to 1.5 degrees.

Limiting warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C has clear and considerable benefits, such as significantly reducing the risks of water scarcity, ill-health, food insecurity, flood and drought, extreme heat, tropical cyclones, biodiversity loss, and sea level rise.

The planet's surface has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius - or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit - and could see a catastrophic 1.5 C - 2.7 F - increase between 2030 and 2052, scientists say.

To curb the trend, governments will have to spearhead "rapid and unprecedented societal transformation", including major reductions in their carbon emissions.

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According to the report, limiting global warming will require greener cities and more sustainable transportation industries.

Like it or not, climate change and global warming are things that concern all of us. "'It's a good reminder that no one experiences the global average temperature'".

Here is how to interpret the alarming new United Nations-sponsored report on global warming: We are living in a horror movie.

The report suggests that coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all ( 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC. Per the IPCC, humans need to slash carbon output to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and to straight-up zero by 2050.

The dramatic report warned that the planet is now heading to warm by 3C - and to slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

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. But the report warns that "the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development".

Coal power would also need to be reduced to nearly nothing. "The next few years are probably the most important in our history", said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC division that deals with the impacts of climate change and the adaptations needed to respond to it.

Quoted in Tuesday's Guardian article about the dangers of ignoring potential tipping points, Nobel prize laureate Mario Molina, who shared the award for chemistry in 1995 for his work on ozone depletion, said: "The IPCC report demonstrates that it is still possible to keep the climate relatively safe, provided we muster an unprecedented level of cooperation, extraordinary speed and heroic scale of action".

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