‘Act now, idiots’: There’s 12 years left to stop climate change, UN report warns

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‘Act now, idiots’: There’s 12 years left to stop climate change, UN report warns

The world has only a few years left to deal with climate change – or face blistering heat waves, rising seas and a ‘shocking rise in hunger,’ a UN report has warned.

To contain warming at 1.5C, manmade global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would need to fall by about 45% by 2030, the report warned.

Otherwise, the world will face rising seas, deadly heat waves, floods and shrinking ice caps – and it may not be possible to get climate change under control.

BERHEIM, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Steam rises from the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant operated by German utility RWE, which stands near open-pit coal mines that feed it with coal, on November 13, 2017 near Bergheim, Germany. The COP 23 United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Bonn, about 60km from the Niederaussem plant. The nearby Rhineland coal fields are the biggest source of coal in western Germany and the power plants in the region that they supply emit massive amounts of CO2. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Can we get climate change under control? (Getty)

‘Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW IDIOTS’, but they need to say that with facts and numbers,’ said Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace, who observed the negotiations. ‘And they have.’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows unprecedented changes were needed across society to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The review of thousands of scientific papers sets out the impacts of temperature rises of 1.5C compared to 2C, and what is needed to curb temperatures at that level.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Police tape cordons off the scene of the shooting of WPC's Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Hattersley on September 19, 2012 in Manchester, England. Local man Dale Cregan, 29, has been arrested in connection with the shooting of WPC's Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, who were killed as they responded to a routine incident at Abbey Gardens in Hattersley shortly before 11am yesterday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Boy charged with raping girl, 10, and trying to kill her

Impacts ranging from increased droughts and water scarcity to extreme weather, spread of diseases such as malaria, economic damage, and harm to yields of maize, rice and wheat will be less severe at 1.5C than 2C.

Sea level rises would be 10cm lower with a 1.5C temperature rise compared to 2C by 2100, while there would be worse impacts on coral reefs and the Arctic at higher temperatures.

Hoesung Lee (C), chair of the IPCC, speaks during a press conference of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) at Songdo Convensia in Incheon on October 8, 2018. - Avoiding global climate chaos will require a major transformation of society and the world economy that is "unprecedented in scale," the UN said on October 8, in a landmark report that warns time is running out to avert disaster. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Hoesung Lee (C), chair of the IPCC, speaks during a press conference of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) (AFP)

Matthew Spencer, Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy said: ‘Climate change has set our planet on fire, millions of people are already feeling the impacts, and the IPCC is clear that things could get much worse without immediate action.

‘The faster governments phase out coal, embrace the renewable energy revolution and move to protect communities at risk, the more lives and livelihoods will be spared.’

He warned the world was already seeing the beginning of ‘massive displacement and a shocking rise in hunger’ – and unless temperatures stayed below 1.5C, island nations would disappear beneath rising seas.

Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Just like ignoring credit card statements so that repayments only become sharper and steeper, this report shows that weak responses will make it harder in the long-run.

VINCENNES BAY, ANTARTICA - JANUARY 11: Giant tabular icebergs are surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay on January 11, 2008 in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. (Photo by Torsten Blackwood - Pool/Getty Images)

The world will see rising seas and melting ice unless global warming is brought under control (Getty)

‘Right now it’s difficult, but not impossible, to contain climate chaos, but the window of opportunity will close for good the longer we delay.’

She warned the predicted loss of all coral reefs if governments could not contain warming would mean a massive loss of fish that people rely on for food and costing lives and livelihoods.

She said: ‘That is the kind of reality we must face if governments don’t take notice of this report.’

Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF, said the world was already seeing the loss of natural habitats and species, shrinking ice caps and rising sea levels.

He said: ‘We know what is needed to limit global warming to 1.50C and we can do it relying mostly on proven technologies such as decisively scaling up renewable energy and halting deforestation.

Greenpeace activists display a big banner reading "We still have hope, Climate action now!" during an activity prior to a press conference of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) at Songdo Convensia in Incheon on October 8, 2018. - The landmark UN report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was released in South Korea on October 8, after a week-long meeting of the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Greenpeace activists display a big banner reading “We still have hope, Climate action now!” AFP

‘We have the targets, we have the solutions and the difference between impossible and possible is political leadership. WWF calls on leaders to accelerate climate action immediately.’

Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) which represents investors with trillions of pounds of assets under management, said the report showed limiting global warming to 1.5C is what was needed.

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



Why do we need to limit global warming to 1.5C?

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 28: Exhaust rises from the smokestack of a natural gas-burning power and heating plant on February 28, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. The German government has set ambitious goals for carbon reduction, but while Germany as a whole has invested heavily in renewable energy sources in recent years the country is struggling to meet the carbon reduction goals. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement puts the climate in peril (Getty)

While warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels has widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which dangerous climate change will occur, vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

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.

When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

So the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was tasked with providing the answers.

It warns the world is well off track to keep to the 1.5C limit.

Even with the promises countries have made as part of the Paris Agreement to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the world is set to breach the 1.5C threshold by around 2040.

Based on those promises, we are heading for 3C by 2100 and even warmer after that.

As more greenhouse gases lead to more warming, stabilising the planet’s temperature at any level will require emissions to fall to zero overall.

 

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