Climate change: Could changing your lifestyle really make a difference?

Lamar Ellis
October 9, 2018

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned there will be a "global catastrophe" if temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius by the middle of the decade.

Working Group I assessed the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addressed impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III dealt with the mitigation of climate change.

In the 728-page document, the United Nations organization 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 one degree.

Global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, researchers said, citing human activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

"Twenty-40% of the global human population live in regions that, by the decade 2006-2015, had already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial in at least one season". Coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5 degrees, whereas more than 99% would be lost with 2 degrees.

A limit of 1.5° in global warming is feasible - but will still have far greater implications than previously thought, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), while inaction will have major consequences.

The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C was approved by the IPCC on Saturday in Incheon, South Korea.

And she said: "Today's report by the IPCC makes clear that avoiding unsafe climate change will require a transformational effort, and that is precisely what Labour is offering - a plan to rapidly decarbonise our energy system as part of a green jobs revolution, and a long term target of net zero emissions before 2050".

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Scientists warn of imminent climate catastrophe without massive changes
The Arctic is likely to be ice-free in summer around once a century at 1.5C but at least once a decade if warming climbs to 2C. The report explains why it's so important that we meet the 1.5 degree target, and how hard that will be to accomplish.

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"Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes", said Jim Skea, another co-chair at the IPCC and an expert in sustainable energy at the Imperial College of London. Morrison says, 'Let's not forget Australia accounts for just over 1% of global emissions. That would require "unprecedented changes in all aspects of society", most especially within the energy industry. "Every bit of extra warming makes a difference", said Abdalah Mokssit, director of Morocco's National Meteorological Department and IPCC secretary. Temperatures on extreme hot days in mid-latitudes could increase by 3 °C with 1.5 °C of global warming, versus 4 °C in a 2 °C world. Can we limit warming to that number?

"The coal industry has no role in a climate-stable world", said Jan Erik Saugestad, chief executive officer of Norway's Storebrand Asset Management, which oversees US$88 billion. "The next few years are probably the most important in our history", she said.

The larger import of the finalised report's findings was not much different from that of the drafts that had leaked out earlier, though the negotiations between government representatives and scientists did end up substantially altering how much confidence the governments placed on different findings based on the scientific evidence underlying the summarised take-aways. IPCC assessments are a key input into the worldwide negotiations to tackle climate change.

By 2050, emissions of other heat-trapping greenhouse gasses, including methane and black carbon, should be reduced by 35%, relative to the 2010 rate.

The task ahead is "monumental", says Natalie Mahowald, a lead author on the report. The IPCC's most recent (2014) Fifth Assessment of the scientific evidence found that at around 1.5℃ warming there was a transition from moderate to high risk for threatened ecosystems and cultures and for extreme weather events. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050.

"Is it fair for the next generation to pay to take the Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that we are now putting into it?", asked Allen.

The report notes that we are now at a warming of about 1.0°C, with the warming trend rolling along at 0.2±0.1°C per decade.

"It will take government resolve", he said.

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