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

Professor Bronwyn Hayward of the University of Canterbury says New Zealanders will have to move urgently to cut greenhouse gas emissions

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

Areas like sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean would still suffer from droughts, but farms would be able to grow more food than they could with 2 degrees of warming.

"Scientists are increasingly aware that every half degree of warming matters", Chris Weber, WWF's global climate and energy lead scientist, said in a statement.

Limiting global warming's temperature rise to 1.5ºC would require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society", the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a damning new report. According to a new stark United Nations report, though, the world is running out of time and only has about 11 years until shit really starts to go down.

Moreover, coral reefs, already threatened, would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2°C, according to the report.

Around 6 percent of insects, 8 percent of plants, and 4 percent of vertebrates are projected to be negatively affected by global warming of 1.5°C, namely by shrinking their natural geographic range, compared with 18 percent of insects, 16 percent of plants and 8 percent of vertebrates for global warming of 2°C. As Davenport reports, the new study's authors have already conceded that dampening the rise in temperature is probably "politically unlikely". At 1.5 degrees, fewer species would go extinct.

So is it possible to steer the ship to a 1.5°C limit?

Emissions cuts in transport, buildings, industry, power generation and dietary habits such as eating meat will need to take place in a bid to speed up temperature limits.

Reining in the emissions of another greenhouse gas, methane, from the cultivation of cattle, rice and other agricultural products - even as farmers need to feed a growing global population.

Doing that would require an immediate, massive, coordinated transformation of the global economic system - especially the energy system.

"Our understanding of 1.5°C was very limited, all but two or three of the models we had then were based on a 2°C target", said Henri Waisman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, and one of the report's 86 authors.

While the difference between 1.5 deg C and 2 deg C might seem small, some types of climate-change impact will be less severe by limiting global warming. "Each year that the global economy fails to decarbonize at the required rate, the two-degree goal becomes more hard to achieve".

The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 C, compared with at least once per decade with 2 C.

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More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that almost ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfall events such as hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are also pointed to as expectations as we reach the warming threshold. These factors could trigger huge migrations of people and mass extinctions of animals.

Coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% instead of being nearly completely wiped out. "Climate change is significantly contributing to increased heat-related mortality", Times of India quoted the report as saying.

US President Donald Trump has questioned the science of manmade climate change and vowed to withdraw the US, the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, from the agreement.

If the world sees 2 degrees C of warming, ice sheet collapse in Antarctica becomes far more likely. Coral reefs have a particularly dire outlook. In the past, the critical temperature increase was 2 degrees Celsius.

These effects will make certain parts of the world less habitable for humans.

Small islands and coastal cities such as NY and Mumbai risk going underwater without the installation of sea barriers.

There are financial estimates of the damage, too.

As climatologist Michael Mann told National Geographic, the more we can to prevent this temperature rise, the better.

One key issue will be negative emissions, large scale carbon-scrubbing technologies that can reduce the amount in the atmosphere and act to counter continued pollution. But right now, they aren't cost-effective or efficient enough.

'We also know that bold action to address climate change offers 26 trillion United States dollars [£20 trillion] in economic benefit across the global economy through to 2030.

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