Why we’re closer to climate catastrophe than we thought

The Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017

The Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017. AAP

The report, which was authored by 91 scientists and review editors from 40 countries, cites over 6,000 scientific references, and represents the work of thousands of experts and government employees.

The world is failing in its effort to avert catastrophic climate change, a United Nations panel warned Monday, and the result will be more deaths and climate refugees due to extreme weather and rising seas, a greater rate of species extinction, and reduced economic growth.

Greg Flato, a senior scientist with Environment Canada's climate research division and one of the IPCC special report's authors, said the report shows "emissions from all sectors will have to reduce rapidly in order to keep temperatures from exceeding 1.5 degrees". Most Australians want this problem fixed.

The headlines about cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and getting nearly all of our electricity from renewables by the middle of the century, are all very well but a key point of this report is that successfully limiting climate change to 1.5C is not just down to cutting emissions or making lifestyle changes or planting trees - it is all of that and then some, acting in concert at the same time.

"This report is not a wake-up call, it is a ticking time bomb", said Gro Harlem Brundtland, Acting Chair of The Elders in a statement.

The 2015 Paris Accord (which no major industrialised country is now on track to meet) set out to prevent more than 2 degrees Celsius warming from preindustrial times.

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.

President Donald Trump says he plans to review the United Nations report that warns of global warming-caused chaos unless drastic action is taken - although he says he's skeptical of its authors.

Unless African governments take swift action against global warming, millions of people in the continent are in danger of being pushed into poverty and hunger.Oxfam International, an amalgamation of 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty, raised the alarm yesterday.

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The world has reached a fork in the road with two paths ahead: a planet that's 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and a planet that's 1.5°C warmer. Per the IPCC, humans need to slash carbon output to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and to straight-up zero by 2050.

Where this new study from the IPCC differs from previous approaches is that it clearly links lifestyle choices with warming.

Adaptation needs are also more moderate at the 1.5 °C threshold, though adaptation limits (the point at which there are no feasible adaptation options available to avoid a given climate risk) may still be exceeded for threats including partial coral reef loss and stress to coastal-dependent communities.

The IPCC report makes clear for the first time that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees requires cutting short-lived super climate pollutions-black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons-along with carbon dioxide, as well as learning how to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at scale. Temperatures would be 1.5C higher between 2030 and 2052 if the world continued at its current pace, it warned.

The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.

"Every 10 years, climate scientists say we have 10 years left to save the planet", Mr. Heller said.

Main image: Wind turbines in the foreground of a coal power station at Frodsham Marsh in Cheshire, England.

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

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