Climate change report draws call for action from United Nations rights expert

Cesar Mills
October 12, 2018

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".

The report will provide the framework of discussion for the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. More than 6,000 scientific references are cited and there were 133 contributing authors.

Scientists are calling for drastic changes in global society to prevent world temperatures from rising by two degrees Celsius.

The UN-backed study said the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C. While an increase of that magnitude would boost sea levels by as much as 77 centimetres by the end of the century, that would be about 10 centimetres lower than at 2 degrees, the report said.

The report says a 2C rise will lead to more heatwaves and extreme rainstorms, more people facing water shortages and drought, greater economic losses and lower yields for major crops than 1.5C.

"Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds".

Jacinda Ardern says the panel of global scientists have spelled out the difference between taking the action needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius and it reaching 2 percent or higher.

Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible but will require fast and far-reaching changes to power generation, industry, transport, buildings and potential shifts in lifestyle such as eating less meat.

According to the report, human-induced warming reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017. For Canada, that means emissions would need to fall to a maximum of 385 million tonnes a year.

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"Limiting warming to 1.5 °C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes", said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or "overshoot" 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove Carbon dioxide from the air to return global temperatures to below 1.5°C by 2100.

But the report said the efficacy of measures, such as planting forests, bioenergy use or capturing and storing CO2, were unproven at a large scale and carried some risks. "The next few years are probably the most important in our history", she said.

The IPCC is a United Nations body assessing the science related to climate change, which has 195 member states. The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups.

These so-called shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs), which focus on mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, are a fairly new innovation and draw a new dimension to climate modeling: the impact of changes in human behavior. "Global emissions of greenhouse gases have to approach zero already in 2050 to avoid the most harmful consequences".

It represents the starkest warning yet from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC report, however, shows that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted.

The report was the first commissioned by world leaders under the Paris Climate Accord from which President Trump is withdrawing the US and was first covered by The New York Times.

Scientists predict that any higher than 1.5°C and the effects will be irreversible.

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