New UN report issues extremely dark warning on climate change

A firefighter fights a blaze near Yosemite National Park in August

"Instabilities exist for both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets that could result in multi-metre rises in sea level on centennial to millennial timescales", the report said, adding there was "medium confidence that these instabilities could be triggered under 1.5-2 degrees of global warming".

There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

If the temperature rise can be kept under 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, then those impacts - from extreme weather to rising seas - will be less severe. More than 90 scientists wrote the report, which is based on more than 6,000 peer reviews.

The scientists concluded that the "Total annual average energy -related mitigation investment for the period 2015 to 2050 in pathways limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius is estimated to be around $900 billion at 2015 prices".

Countries must take "unprecedented" action to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and limit unsafe global warming, a key report has warned. Can we limit warming to that number?

The IPCC report said at the current rate of warming, the world's temperatures would likely reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s.

"If [the temperature] overshoot is to be minimised, the remaining equivalent Carbon dioxide budget available for emissions is very small, which implies that large, immediate, and unprecedented global efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases are required", the report said.

The world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut the use of coal-fired power to nearly nothing by 2050 to slow the quickest pace of climate change since the end of the last ice age, according to scientists convened by the United Nations.

Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward, from New Zealand's University of Canterbury, is one of the lead authors of the IPCC report.

The tricky bit for countries remains to figure out what set of actions could keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius.

Governments everywhere have been put on notice that global warming was already serious and much more needed to be done, with legal moves in prospect if they didn't act, environmental groups say.

That means a massive transformation in the way the world generates energy - phasing out fossil fuels and coal in particular, as well as how it uses transportation and grows food. An author of the report however said "US had issues but finally the report was endorsed by all nations. This is our chance to decide what that road will look like". Natural gas could maintain an 8% share of electricity generation if CCS reduced total global net emissions to zero by 2050.

Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: 'Just like ignoring credit card statements so that repayments only become sharper and steeper, this report shows that weak responses will make it harder in the long-run.

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.

Dr Zafar suggests that the only solution to reduce and mitigate heatwaves is to increase tree cover in the city that would overcome the risk of heat strokes, which claimed the most lives in the deadly 2015 heatwave.

Staying under 1.5C could mean 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heatwaves. In 50 years, she says, "it's going to be very different". The report said warmer water coral reefs "will largely disappear".

The outcome will determine whether "my grandchildren would get to see handsome coral reefs", Princeton's Oppenheimer said. The world's biggest polluters - China, US, India, EU, Russia and Japan - have a responsibility to lead the efforts.

"Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now", Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

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