Scientists warn of imminent climate catastrophe without massive changes

Lamar Ellis
October 9, 2018

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has effectively delivered a final call on world leaders to take urgent action to stop the planet from overheating.

The report explains why it's so important that we meet the 1.5 degree target, and how hard that will be to accomplish.

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. At the rate we're going, global temperatures are set to hit the mark by 2040-unless a lot changes, and fast.

"Even though historically scalability and speed of scaling of nuclear plants have been high in many nations, such rates are now not achieved anymore".

A coal fired power plant. The changes required, from energy to agriculture, are "unprecedented in terms of scale", the group writes in a summary for policymakers.

While more than 180 countries have accepted the report's summary, the USA (which is the second biggest emitter in the world) said that their acceptance of the report does not "imply endorsement" of the findings. "This dynamic differs in countries such as China and South Korea, where monopolistic conditions in the electric system allow for reducing investment risks, deploying series effects and enhancing the engineering capacities of users due to stable relations between the security authorities and builders", it says.

While 1.5°C rise in global temperature will be precarious, a 2°C rise would be catastrophic.

The much-anticipated "1.5 Health Report" was released on Monday in South Korea by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body set up in 1988, and written by 91 authors from 40 different countries. In the Paris accord, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C.

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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 world is already 1°Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial levels and, if present trends continue, the rise in average temperatures will breach the critical barrier of 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.

Labor seized upon the IPCC report yesterday to claim the Coalition continued to be wracked with infighting over climate policy, saying the conservative rump of the party, led by former prime minister Tony Abbott, continued to dictate that the government embraces coal.

"E$3 ven with erroneous attribution of extreme weather/climate events and projections using climate models that are running too hot and not fit for goal of projecting 21st century climate change, the IPCC still has not made a strong case for this massive investment to prevent 1.5C warming", she said on her Climate Etc. blog.

At the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, worldwide leaders agreed to keep global warming "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" with the hopes to limit this to just 1.5°C. Additionally, there must be renewed emphasis on adaptation, which, as the Report says, requires transformation and incremental shifts with more finance directed towards adaptation. It would involve upscaling of low-carbon technologies in all carbon-intensive sectors of the economy, energy efficiency and enhancement of carbon sinks for sequestering carbon globally. As Davenport reports, the new study's authors have already conceded that dampening the rise in temperature is probably "politically unlikely". The risk to fisheries would be lower. And atmospheric carbon dioxide removal techniques would need to be employed on a truly significant scale.

Coral and other ecosystems are also at risk. To maximise nuclear energy's contribution electricity markets need to acknowledge these benefits. Its tone is not "we must avoid 1.5℃ warming", as you might think from many commentators, but more "if we want to avoid 1.5℃ warming, this is what must be done".

Since the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull abandoned the emissions reduction component of the Coalition's national energy guarantee, Australia has been left without a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, when the renewable energy target will expire. They said it is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.

"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. We are not yet in the position to create enough long-term storage from environmentally friendly sources to fill the supply gap when renewables are not generating. "There's certainly things that we'll need to invest in more to develop the next generation of solutions".

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