Action Needed Now in Climate Crisis

Bill Mc Kibben

The world is failing in its effort to avert catastrophic climate change, a United Nations panel warned Monday, and the result will be more deaths and climate refugees due to extreme weather and rising seas, a greater rate of species extinction, and reduced economic growth.

A new United Nations report warns of the unprecedented changes needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

"What I hope this report will do is change the discourse on mitigation, with countries understanding mitigation not as a burden but as an opportunity", said Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, vice-chair of the Working Group III.

UQ Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report said current analysis revealed we could still meet a 1.5°C target. Further, scientific projections suggest that 99 percent of the world's corals will be lost at the higher end of the temperature range whereas more than 10 percent would have a fighting chance at survival if temperatures are limited to the lower target.

The report was the first commissioned by world leaders under the Paris Climate Accord from which President Trump is withdrawing the US and was first covered by The New York Times.

Some of the world's top climate scientists have concluded that global warming is likely to reach unsafe levels unless new technologies are developed to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Greenpeace's Kaisa Kosonen summed up why the report matters: "Scientists might want to write in capital letters, "ACT NOW IDIOTS", but they need to say that with facts and numbers".

The report would become a key scientific basis for the COP24 to the UNFCCC, scheduled for December in Poland, according to the IPCC.

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A critical step is to ensure human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) will fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050.

"We welcome the conclusions of this historic report, one that should give the worldwide community not just a wake-up call, but also hope that we can avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change", said Bill Hare, Climate Analytics CEO.

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.

It also lays out courses of action that could be taken to keep the rise in check. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.

The report summary said renewable energy would need to supply 70 percent to 85 percent of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now. "Nor are we bound to go and tip money into that big climate fund. What we've done is said what the world needs to do", Imperial College London's Jim Skea, cochair of the IPCC panel, said at a press conference.

The IPCC report estimates that a temperature increase of 1.5°C will be reached between 2030 and 2052 if no changes are made.

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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