October 16, 2018

Unprecedented action needed to curb global warming

08 October 2018, 04:36 | Edward Lowe

Landmark UN global warming report carries life-or-death warning

Catherine McKenna

Temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052 if global warming continues at its current pace and if the world fails to take rapid and unprecedented measures to stem the increase, a United Nations report said on Monday. In the Paris accord, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

This would mean replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles or other clean alternatives and scrapping the use of gas boilers in homes in just a few decades.

The world's biggest review report on climate change, released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned that India could face an annual threat of deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that had left around 2,500 people dead, if the world gets warmer by 2 degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels, reported Times of India.

The world is already experiencing around 1C of global warming, and events such as floods, storms and heatwaves like the one in the United Kingdom this summer have become increasingly likely as a result of climate change, according to experts.

Get this: The report summary says a rise of 1.5 degrees C would still carry climate-related risks, both for nature and humankind.

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Taking steps to curb temperature rises to 1.5C can help with other aims such as improving health through lower air pollution and more sustainable diets, and alleviating poverty in the developing world. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

"Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems", the report said.

There has already been a rise of 1C since the mid-1800s as industrialization lifted emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change. Any additional emissions would require removing Carbon dioxide from the air.

The report summary said renewable energy would need to supply 70 percent to 85 percent of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

It's intended as a guide for policymakers who are aiming to limit temperature rise to the target 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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The report stresses the need for measures to take carbon out of the atmosphere, such as planting forests or using land for crops to burn for energy and capturing the carbon and storing it underground, known as bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (Beccs).

Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90 per cent expected to die off, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

"The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it", said Amjad Abdulla, the IPCC board member and chief negotiator for an alliance of small island states at risk of flooding as sea levels rise. "The next few years are probably the most important in our history".

Limiting warming to the lower goal is "not impossible but will require unprecedented changes", United Nations panel chief Hoesung Lee said in a news conference in which scientists repeatedly declined to spell out just how feasible that goal is.

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