United Nations report warns of possible climate disaster by 2040

Landmark UN global warming report carries life-or-death warning

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out

Impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C, the UN-backed study said.

Emissions will need to fall 45 per cent from 2010 levels - or 58 per cent from current levels - by 2030, the IPCC said.

The Paris Agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in December 2015, included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by limiting global temperature rise no more than 2 C. "The next few years are probably the most important in our history", she said.

If the world did find the political and personal will to pull together and put in that kind of effort, the report shows that those actions would benefit more than just the climate.

However, keeping global warming below this level will require "annual average investment needs in the energy system of around $2.4 trillion (around €20.8 trillion)" between 2016 and 2035, according to the report.

What does the 1.5 degree figure mean? The report points out that the risk transition from 1.5°C to 2°C is very high and the impact of a 2°C rise will be more devastating than what IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report had indicated.

Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90% expected to die off, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, revealed that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius "would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society", according to a statement announcing the climate change report.

The report underlines how even the smallest increase in the base target would worsen the impact of recent natural disasters.

"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 another IPCC working group. However, limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5℃ as opposed to 2℃ can help in reducing poverty as well as reduce losses in yields of maize, rice, wheat and other cereal crops, mainly in Asia.

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The Arctic could experience ice-free summers once every decade or two in a 2 °C world, versus once in a century at 1.5 °C.

Coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% instead of being nearly completely wiped out.

Their concerns meant a pledge to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C was included - after tough negotiations - alongside the commitment to keep them "well below" 2C in the global Paris climate agreement in 2015.

There is some good news.

"I wouldn't want to be too optimistic as it will require huge changes, but if we don't do it, that will also require huge changes".

"Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics", said Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC working group dealing with the mitigation of climate change. In any case these are also the countries responsible for much of the emissions in the atmosphere.

The report says that carbon will have to be sucked out of the air by machines and stored underground, and that these devices exist already.

However, all methods "are at different stages of development and some are more conceptual than others, as they have not been tested at scale", the report warned.

The report also urges individuals to act, such as by reducing consumption of meat and dairy products, driving electric vehicles or taking public transport and demanding and buying low-carbon products. Despite the report's dire warnings, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration's stance on this issue. Additionally, there must be renewed emphasis on adaptation, which, as the Report says, requires transformation and incremental shifts with more finance directed towards adaptation.

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