Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’

October 9, 2018

It’s the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures.

Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C says the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C.

Keeping to the preferred target of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

It will be hugely expensive – but the window of opportunity remains open.

After three years of research and a week of haggling between scientists and government officials at a meeting in South Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C.

The critical 33-page Summary for Policymakers certainly bears the hallmarks of difficult negotiations between climate researchers determined to stick to what their studies have shown and political representatives more concerned with economies and living standards.

Despite the inevitable compromises, there are some key messages that come through loud and clear.

“The first is that limiting warming to 1.5C brings a lot of benefits compared with limiting it to two degrees. It really reduces the impacts of climate change in very important ways,” said Prof Jim Skea, who co-chairs the IPCC.

“The second is the unprecedented nature of the changes that are required if we are to limit warming to 1.5C – changes to energy systems, changes to the way we manage land, changes to the way we move around with transportation.”

“Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW, IDIOTS,’ but they need to say that with facts and numbers,” said Kaisa Kosonen, of Greenpeace, who was an observer at the negotiations. “And they have.”

The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below two degrees this century, then the changes we would experience would be manageable.

Not any more. This new study says that going past 1.5C is dicing with the planet’s liveability. And the 1.5C temperature “guard rail” could be exceeded in just 12 years, in 2030.

We can stay below it – but it will require urgent, large-scale changes from governments and individuals and we will have to invest a massive pile of cash every year, about 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced, for two decades.

Even then, we will still need machines, trees and plants to capture carbon from the air that we can then store deep underground – forever.

BBC