'Rapid, Far-Reaching, and Unprecedented' Global Action Needed to 'Prevent Climate Catastrophe'

Making Efforts To Combat Climate Change Harsh Vardhan On UN Report

Global CO2 emissions may need to peak around 2020. It would also be useful for policymakers to start thinking about short-term targets, as well, he added, since the report calls for significant emissions reductions by 2030, on the way to net zero by 2050.

The report warned that half a degree increase in global warming temperature is a big deal and can have catastrophic consequences which will be there for people to see in their current lifetimes. But the window of opportunity will close for good the longer we delay'.

"The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has served us a final warning that we must get our act together - now and quickly", said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, in response to the release of the Panel's latest study.

That benchmark is lower than the one set by the global Paris Agreement, which aimed to prevent the planet from warming by 3 degrees Celsius.

As part of the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement, the IPCC was invited to produce, in 2018, a Special Report on global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

The scientists said the report was meant to guide more than just governments, however, and that action by everyone - including individuals and businesses - would be required to hold the line on climate change.

More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that almost ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfall events such as hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are also pointed to as expectations as we reach the warming threshold.

When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

Areas like sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean would still suffer from droughts, but farms would be able to grow more food than they could with 2 degrees of warming. The risk to fisheries would be lower. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 °C, whereas virtually all ( 99 percent) would be lost with 2 °C. Most coral reefs will die, which could trigger rippling effects throughout the oceans. If not, the researchers say, the threat to people, ecosystems and sustainable development will rise to irreversible levels.

Limiting warming to 0.9 degrees from now means the world can keep "a semblance" of the ecosystems we have. That makes ecological and economic sense. "It is up to them to decide what to do with it", Dr Jim Skea, one of the report's co-chairs, told reporters in a broadcast from Incheon, near Seoul, where the report was released.

The unprecedented changes called for by the group include transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. By lowering emissions and deploying carbon capture technology, we could possibly bring temperatures back down under the threshold.

"This important report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of the IPCC", said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC. The National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton calculated that sea level rise caused by temperatures exceeding 1.5C would cost £10.7trillion a year by 2100. "Each year that the global economy fails to decarbonize at the required rate, the two-degree goal becomes more hard to achieve".

Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change. "We have a lot of the solutions available to us today", she says.

"I just don't see the possibility of doing the one and a half" and even 2 degrees looks unlikely, said Appalachian State University environmental scientist Gregg Marland, who isn't part of the United Nations panel but has tracked global emissions for decades for the U.S. Energy Department.

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