Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

The 2015 Paris Agreement - which applies to Hong Kong - highlighted the need to limit the rise in average temperatures to 2 degrees over the century from pre-industrial levels to stave off the worst and irreversible effects of climate change, while "pursuing efforts" to achieve 1.5 degrees.

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

One of the biggest surprises leading up to the 2015 worldwide Paris Agreement on climate-changing emissions was an argument about a new goal.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was tasked with these questions by the framers of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls for halting the rise in temperatures to "well below" 2°C - and 1.5°C if possible.

"The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it", said Amjad Abdulla, an IPCC board member and chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States.

Keeping the 1.5C target would keep the global sea level rise 0.1 metre lower by 2100 than a 2C target, the report states. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5 degrees, whereas more than 99% would be lost with 2 degrees.

"Every bit of extra warming makes a difference", said Dr Hans-Otto Pörtner of the IPCC.

Limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 °C could also protect several hundred million people, including those living in some of the least developed countries, from slipping into poverty and disadvantage by 2050 due to climate-related risks, as would be the case under the 2°C scenario.

To even start to try and reach this goal, the world would need "rapid and far-reaching" changes in how we use energy and land; and how we design our cities and transport systems, the report adds.

There is some good news. The Report mentions that the global net anthropogenic Carbon dioxide emissions must decline by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and net-zero emission should be achieved by 2050. And carbon dioxide emissions must reach net zero around 2075 - meaning the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere equals the amount being removed.

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Another recent report from the consulting firm PwC makes it clear that even limiting warming to 2 degrees C will be a stretch: "There seems to be nearly zero chance of limiting warming to well below two degrees (the main goal of the Paris Agreement), though widespread use of carbon capture and storage technologies, including Natural Climate Solutions, may make this possible", it says. The problem with even a slight shift in goals is that the scientific work done in advance of the worldwide talks hadn't provided results for a 1.5°C scenario.

"Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C compared with 2 °C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals", said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

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

The report is very timely for the upcoming climate negotiations (COP24) in Katowice, Poland in December this year.

The Association said the report says that, historically, "scalability and speed of scaling of nuclear plants have been high in many nations", noting that France implemented a programme to rapidly get 80% of its (electrical) power from nuclear. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups.

There's no doubt that this dense, science-heavy, 33-page summary is the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in 20 years.

If the temperature rise can be kept under 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, then those impacts - from extreme weather to rising seas - will be less severe.

Even with the promises countries have made as part of the Paris Agreement to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the world is set to breach the 1.5C threshold by around 2040. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

Can humanity cap global warming at 1.5°C?

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