Terrifying climate change warning: 12 years until we’re doomed

Mindy Sparks
October 10, 2018

While 1.5 degrees was the 2015 commitment even keeping that promise is going to be a challenge, according to Professor Mark Howden, the director of the Climate Change Institute at the ANU and an IPCC author.

The US president was visiting Florida, a state particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and now in the path of Hurricane Michael, when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned on Monday that "unprecedented" changes were needed to stave off dire impacts if the world warms 1.5C beyond the pre-industrial period. But at 2 degrees, that number jumps to more than 99 percent.

- The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting. Most coral reefs will die, which could trigger rippling effects throughout the oceans.

"Climate activists have been calling for decades for leaders to show responsibility and take urgent action, but we have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done".

Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would also give the world a better chance of avoiding major tipping points like the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

But turning over much more land for energy production "could have implications for food security, ecosystems and biodiversity", the British scientist warned, as competition for land grows.

But meeting the more ambitious goal of slightly less warming would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field. While the United Nations panel says technically that's possible, it saw little chance of the needed adjustments happening. It's called the 2-degree goal.

Sea levels, for example, would be 10cm lower in a 1.5 degree scenario than a 2 degree scenario, and there would be substantially fewer heatwaves and droughts. With global temperatures around 1°C (1.8°F) above pre-industrial levels at present, severe forest fires, hurricanes, and droughts are already ravaging nations around the world.

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. Even at this level, scientists say climate change is fuelling stronger storms and more extreme floods, while hotter oceans are cooking coral reefs.

The IPCC warns, however, there is a stark difference between 1.5 and even 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Coral reefs would be devastated-about 70%-90% would be lost with a 1.5 degree increase; nearly all the world's reefs would be eviscerated if average temperatures rose by more than two degrees.

Monday's report is three years in the making and is a direct result of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. "Sometimes they want to save it from global warming, other times they say they want to save it from global cooling". He likened the report to an academic exercise wondering what would happen if a frog had wings.

Yet report authors said they remain optimistic.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group says, "We've told you the scientific facts, the evidence, the cost, it is up to the governments now to decide what to do with it".

It will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

A coalition of charities has called on Scottish ministers to strengthen the forthcoming Climate Change Bill. Per the IPCC, humans need to slash carbon output to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and to straight-up zero by 2050. In their conclusions, environment ministers recall the progress made in recent months by the European Union on legislation which delivers on its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Economies would have to shift away rapidly from burning coal, oil and gas and invest heavily in renewable energy. "Those pathways, at least in the special report, do not change with the updated carbon budget, as the calculations were done before the carbon budget was revised".

The outcome will determine whether "my grandchildren would get to see handsome coral reefs", Princeton's Oppenheimer said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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