United Nations report on climate change sets off alarm bells

Posted October 11, 2018

Concern over a United Nations report on global warming released on Monday led European Union environment ministers to meet in Luxembourg, where they talked for more than 13 hours in search for a compromise.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday said the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

If emissions can't be cut to a sufficient degree, researchers will need to devise effective methods of removing Carbon dioxide from the air, such as devoting land to growing trees and biofuel crops, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN Environment Program, tells The Washington Post.

Coal power would also need to be reduced to nearly nothing.

"However this report from an internationally respected organisation makes clear the urgent need for all nations to transform their economies to achieve zero-carbon".

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"Scientists are increasingly aware that every half degree of warming matters", Chris Weber, WWF's global climate and energy lead scientist, said in a statement.

A landmark report by the United Nations has warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming.

Earth's average surface temperature has already gone up 1C - enough to unleash a crescendo of deadly extreme weather - and is on track to rise another 2-3C in the absence of a sharp and sustained reduction in carbon pollution. Global sea levels rose 17cm in the 20th century.

- The global temperature is now rising by 0.2C per decade.

An increase of 1.5C will still carry climate-related risks for nature and mankind, but at a lower level than a rise of 2C, the report summary said. Corals have already been battered by our current rise in global temperatures, which has risen by 1°C over the past 150 or so years. At least 70 percent of electricity supply will need to come from renewables by 2050 to stay within the 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

Small islands and coastal cities such as NY and Mumbai risk going underwater without the installation of sea barriers.

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The lower target would also reduce species loss and extinction and the impact on terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems, the report said.

Countries in the southern hemisphere would see the most drastic effects.

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But the data laid out by the Washington-based think tank in its study is misleading, economic and environmental experts have said.

"Limiting warming to (2.7 degrees) is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics", Jim Skea of Imperial College London, one of the authors of the report, said, "but doing so would require unprecedented changes". We can't find any historical analogies for it.

"Whereas at 1.5C, there is a good chance of saving 10-30 per cent of current coral ecosystems", she said on Monday. It also lays out courses of action that could be taken to keep the rise in check.

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Pre-industrial levels refers to the climate before the industrial revolution when greenhouse gas emissions were stable.