Limiting warming to 1.5°C possible, will save 420m people

A firefighter fights a blaze near Yosemite National Park in August

Handout. Reuters A firefighter fights a blaze near Yosemite National Park in August

Scientists are warning that we need to change the way we live our lives to try to avoid what they say could be a "climate change catastrophe".

This is analyzed in a recent study showing that the window to prevent runaway climate change and a "hot house" super-heated planet is closing much faster than previously understood. The events are being reported as two parts of the same story, but they reveal the contradictions inherent in climate policy-and why economics matters more than ever.

An agreement was adopted by 195 nations in December 2017 at the 21st conference of the Paris to the UN Convention on Climate Change.

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 latter would be used as part of a now nonexistent program to get power from trees or plants and then bury the resulting carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, leading to a net subtraction of the gas from the air - bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS". Scientists consider that temperature to be a tipping point at which many severe effects of global warming will be realized.

"Limiting warming to (2.7 degrees) is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics", Jim Skea of Imperial College London, one of the authors of the report, said, "but doing so would require unprecedented changes".

It is thought that by 2100, global sea rise levels would be 10cm lower that if global warming were to be at 2C.

Emissions cuts in transport, buildings, industry, power generation and dietary habits such as eating meat will need to take place in a bid to speed up temperature limits.

An author of the recent report, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the U.S. red-flagged several findings of the scientific summary for policymakers, but finally all nations endorsed it.

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Chandra Bhushan, the deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), says, "Though it will be very hard in the current global economic system to limit warming to 1.5°C, it is not impossible".

Action in cities - which consume more than two-thirds of energy globally and account for about three-quarters of carbon emissions - are pivotal to meeting the target, said report author William Solecki, a professor at Hunter College-City University of NY. "You know, which group drew it".

The report, which is based on more than 6,000 scientific references from 91 authors across 40 countries, including those from Australian researchers, outlines the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

"There were doubts if we would be able to differentiate impacts set at 1.5°C and that came so clearly".

"The next few years are probably the most important in human history", IPCC co-chair Debra Roberts, head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in South Africa, told Agence France-Presse.

The IPCC report is undeniably grim, but its authors state that the 1.5°C target can still be met if unprecedented, wide-ranging action is taken straight away. Coral reefs, which risk decline by more than 99% at 2C, would reduce by 70 to 90%.

Small islands and coastal cities such as NY and Mumbai risk going underwater without the installation of sea barriers. By 2050, emissions will need to be reduced by 100 percent.

The President has infamously called climate change a "hoax" several times, and his administration has acted to loosen or eliminate a bundle of regulations aimed at limiting earth-warming emissions.

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