Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Science | By Patricia Jimenez

The scariest parts of the new climate change report

The scariest parts of the new climate change report

A new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests we are on our last lap, and the homestretch is even shorter than we thought.

The report said renewable energy would need to supply 70-85 percent of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

"The next few years are probably the most important in our history", Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement marking the report's release.

The report identifies various routes by which emissions cuts would limit warming to 1.5℃; each makes assumptions about future changes in, for example, economic strategy, population growth and the rate at which low carbon energy is adopted.

"For some people this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt", said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, a lead author on the report.

Another recent report from the consulting firm PwC makes it clear that even limiting warming to 2 degrees C will be a stretch: "There seems to be nearly zero chance of limiting warming to well below two degrees (the main goal of the Paris Agreement), though widespread use of carbon capture and storage technologies, including Natural Climate Solutions, may make this possible", it says.

Reacting to the findings of the report, Harsh Vardhan said, "We have not been waiting for a report to take action against climate change".

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He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event to release a report on "Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India", jointly prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the World Bank. And they argue carbon pricing does little to reduce emissions - a view that has been challenged by leading environmental economists.

Dr. Michiel Schaeffer, director of science, said: "The IPCC confirms that it is feasible to hold warming to 1.5°, or very close to it, throughout the 21st Century, but that there is no time for complacency". And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the report said.

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.

But those past predictions appear to have been far too conservative (a common critique of IPCC reports in general).

"We can do it but only if the deniers, the skeptics and the comfortable wake up to what the scientists are telling us", he said.

Measures would have to include reducing man-made carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels, and reaching "net zero" emissions by 2050, the report said.

The report explains why it's so important that we meet the 1.5 degree target, and how hard that will be to accomplish.

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The report warned that half a degree increase in global warming temperature is a big deal and can have catastrophic consequences which will be there for people to see in their current lifetimes.

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.

Using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the share of gas-fired power would need to be cut to eight percent and coal to between zero and two percent.

If nothing is done, Earth can expect heat wave temperatures to rise by 3 degrees Celsius, more frequent or extreme droughts, an increase in deadly hurricanes and as much as 90 percent of coral reefs dying off - including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, according to the report.

Despite saying the new lower goal was not impossible, the scientists on the IPCC panel repeatedly declined to spell out just how feasible it would be for nations to reach this new goal, instead of limiting warming by 2 degrees.

Implementing a technique, only theoretical at the moment, of pulling the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air by turning plants into fuel and storing some of the resulting emissions underground.

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