Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Stark warning says we have a decade to avoid catastrophic climate change

Stark warning says we have a decade to avoid catastrophic climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meeting in South Korea, issued a report with 91 authors and editors from 40 countries declaring that there's now a 12-year window to make "far-reaching and unprecedented changes" to avert dramatic effects of global warming.

According to Greenpeace India, with an ambitious target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, India can indeed help in keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degree celsius, but at the same time India's needs to relook at its future energy investments into coal and oil.

The report called climate change "an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet", and warned that delayed action would make it impossible to limit warming to 2.7º F.

The IPCC met last week in Incheon, South Korea to finalise the report, prepared at the request of governments in 2015 to assess the feasibility and importance of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

Earth's surface has warmed one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) - enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts - and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

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.

The launch of the report will spark renewed calls for governments around the world to act. Plants, insects, animals, and marine life will all be pushed farther out of current geographic ranges with 2 degrees of warming. But U.S. states led by California and many cities are living up to their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, WMO's Taalas said. And atmospheric carbon dioxide removal techniques would need to be employed on a truly significant scale.

Global leaders and climate activists have held up the dire consequences of climate change for decades, with many businesses more recently joining the refrain. Among them, sea level rises would be around 48cm if the temperature was 1.5C and 56cm for 2C.

"International cooperation is absolutely imperative to limit emissions and therefore global warming and its impacts, as well as coordinating effective and widespread adaptation and mitigation", said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a fellow at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales.

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Climate change will make some types of extreme weather more common.

This report shows the longer we leave it to act, the more hard, the more expensive and the more unsafe it will be.

Most 1.5°C pathways include an increased role for nuclear power, in one case up to 501 percent above 2010 levels by 2050.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement marking the report's release. Human activities have caused warming of about 1.8 degrees since about the 1850s, the beginning of large-scale industrial coal burning, the report found. By 2100, global sea level rises would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C, and coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (99%) would be lost with 2ºC.

This report says that the world doesn't have to come up with some magic machines to curb climate change - we've already got all the tech we need.

"I think we need to start a debate about who is going to pay for it, and whether it's right for the fossil-fuel industry and its customers to be enjoying the benefits today and expecting the next generation to pay for cleaning it up", Allen says.

Average global temperatures are now 1C above pre-industrial levels, and are likely to increase 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 under current trajectories, the report says. Even 1.5°C comes with serious consequences. "We must reduce emissions as quickly as possible to keep 1.5 deg C of warming within reach", said Mr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the Washington-based World Resources Institute. It would also require developed countries to contribute more to global finance flows and technology sharing for poor countries to achieve these enhanced targets.

The report fired up activists even as critics dismissed the deadline as another arbitrary "climate tipping point", as Climate Depot's Marc Morano put it.

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