Major UN report says climate change is worse than first thought

A child walks past a misting fountain in the central Gwanghwamun area of Seoul on Aug 1 2018. The world has already warmed about 1 deg C since pre-industrial times fuelling stronger storms more extreme floods deadlier heatwaves and wildfires

At the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, worldwide leaders agreed to keep global warming "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" with the hopes to limit this to just 1.5°C.

"Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming" the report said, adding that the world's poor are more likely to get hit hardest.

The IPCC's Special Report on 1.5 degrees celsius shows that global carbon dioxide emissions must be halved by 2030 before falling to net zero by mid century at the latest.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require "rapid and far-reaching" transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

In the 728-page document, the United Nations organization detailed how Earth's weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world's leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just a half degree Celsius from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of one degree. The report will be the main scientific input at the Talanoa Dialogue in the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP24) in December in Poland.

Temperatures during summer heatwaves, such as those just experienced across Europe this summer, can be expected to increase by 3 degrees C says the report. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 °C, whereas virtually all ( 99 percent) would be lost with 2 °C.

This is the crux of the United Nations climate change science panel report that all the countries accepted on Saturday after a contentious and strenuous meeting between scientists and diplomats in Korea.

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

"Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes", said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. Seas would rise almost 0.1 meters less.

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

"The IPCC report is very clear that government commitments are far from sufficient and will not achieve the Paris Agreement's warming limit - there needs to be a redoubled effort to increase the level of ambition for 2030", says Rueanna Haynes, SIDS climate advisor.

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

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord a year ago, invoking concerns for the U.S. economy, and has espoused pro-fossil fuel policies.

"The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate", said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

The unprecedented flooding in Kerala, drought in Cape Town and searing heat waves in Europe are signs that climate change is already happening. IPCC assessments are a key input into the worldwide negotiations to tackle climate change. If we eliminated all our emissions today, we would still see a bit more warming (as sunlight-reflecting aerosol pollution quickly washed out of the atmosphere, for example) but probably not enough to send us coasting helplessly across the 1.5°C limit.

Methods to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere will also be needed.

The technology to do this is in the early stages of development and many researchers say it could be hard to develop it for use on a global scale.

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. 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. They want you to help them save it.

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