Time Is Running Out To Control Climate Change, U.N. Report Says

The world still has a chance to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5° C above preindustrial levels, but major, immediate changes will be necessary, according to a report released today (October 8) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But even with its description of the increasing impacts that lie ahead, the IPCC understates a key risk: "that self-reinforcing feedback loops could push the climate system into chaos before we have time to tame our energy system, and the other sources of climate pollution". At 2 degrees, that will be more like once per decade. These heat-trapping gases are the byproduct of industrial processes such as refrigeration and can be eliminated from those processes by re-engineering. It envisions a scenario in which the US acts alone on climate change, not in tandem with the 194 other countries that agreed to emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

That promise came with plans to cut emissions, but now the IPCC isn't sure we'll get the job done. Last summer, Trump announced the United States' intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Carbon emissions must fall by 45pc by 2030, reaching "net zero" by 2050.

This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing Carbon dioxide from the air. But IPCC also adds that the effectiveness of CO2-capturing technologies is still unproven on a large-scale.

The dramatic report warned that the planet is now heading to warm by 3C - and to slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

"Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes", says Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, which worked on the report.

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In his article, Shellenberger details the United Nations' historical distaste for nuclear power, including a 30-year-old report which advocated poor nations "sustainable" use of wood for fuel which, it said, would require a massive restructuring of the countries' agricultural economies. More than 1,000 scientists reviewed the findings. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2 °C.

The rise has already triggered consequences we are seeing through the seasons such as more extreme weather.

So how can we make sure that warming does not exceed 1.5°C and take us into highly risky territory? However, Washington did not obstruct the report, as some had expected.

But those past predictions appear to have been far too conservative (a common critique of IPCC reports in general). But several studies conclude that India is vulnerable to climate change impacts. The most-affected areas in India will be mega cities, coastal areas, high-mountain and small-island regions. One is to end the use of fossil fuels. Global sea levels rose 17cm in the 20th century. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5 °C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. This could be facilitated by a change of incentives for private day-to-day expenditure and the redirection of savings from speculative and precautionary investments, towards long-term productive low-emission assets and services. Without an active participation of the U.S., this will be impossible.

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". (I probably will try to get through the chapter on the computer climate models, as it usually makes for amusing reading.) But seriously, climate change is an issue that is pining for the fjords, as I wrote to enormous outrage in the Wall Street Journal in June.

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    But those past predictions appear to have been far too conservative (a common critique of IPCC reports in general). Key points in the report include maintaining the current global temperature at 1.5ºC.
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