Raw Politics: the dire climate change warning that should shock us all

Catherine McKenna

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out

There are "clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems when limiting global warming to 1.5 C compared to 2 C", the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a new assessment on Monday, Oct. 8. In the 728-page document, the United Nations organisation detailed how Earth's weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world's leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just a half degree Celsius from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1° Celsius.

"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".

On a local level, what are you doing to fight climate change?

Warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels had widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which risky climate change will occur, but vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

With the world's attention on this vital issue, we'd like to hear your thoughts on climate change.

Still, Cleetus says that we have most of the technology we need to make the change. Coral reefs would nearly entirely disappear with 2 degrees of warming, with just 10-30% of existing reefs surviving at 1.5 °C.

It seems it's absolutely necessary that we start using carbon capture technology to remove some of the Co2 that we've already pumped into the air. IPCC assessments are a key input into the global negotiations to tackle climate change. And on Sunday in Brazil, the world's seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gas, voters appeared on track to elect a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he also plans to withdraw from the accord.

Yet, to limit global warming to below 1.5°C, drastic action is needed in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and city policy, the IPCC said. "Indeed, they are not enough for any appropriately ambitious temperature target, given what we know about risky climate impacts already unfolding even at lower temperature thresholds", Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), wrote ahead of its release.

Former George Tech atmospheric-sciences professor Judith A. Curry described the report's conclusions as the "same old, same old", based on questionable climate models and not "new science or better ways of assessing uncertainty". To hit and keep that 1.5 degrees target, net anthropogenic Carbon dioxide emissions must come down 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around 2050.

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"Every extra tonne of carbon that we dump into the atmosphere today is a tonne that will have to be scrubbed out at the end of the century", says Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, UK, and one of the lead authors of the report.

At 1.5 degrees, the authors predict the Arctic Ocean will be free of sea ice once per century.

The final scenario compensates for a "business-as-usual" economy and lifestyle by allowing a large overshoot of the 1.5°C target.

And if we hold warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees, the report suggests global sea level rise will be a whole 10 centimetres lower - potentially stopping what the report describes as a "disproportionately rapid evacuation" of people from the tropics.

The report has been published by the IPCC. At least 70 percent of electricity supply will need to come from renewables by 2050 to stay within the 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", warned Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Reining in the emissions of another greenhouse gas, methane, from the cultivation of cattle, rice and other agricultural products - even as farmers need to feed a growing global population.

He said the report "has sent the strongest message yet from the scientific community that the era of fossil fuels has to end soon if we are to protect the world from unsafe climate change and limit warming to 1.5°C".

"We have very limited options for more hydro power in the United Kingdom, batteries do not yet provide the type of storage needed and other options like liquid air and hydrogen storage are still early in their development stages". Technologically, economically, and politically the challenge is vast, "indicative both of the scale of the challenge and the resistance [the effort will] face", notes Shindell, who also contributed to the report.

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