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World Crosses 1.5 Degree Global Warming Limit, UN Urges Quick Action

Things We've Learned from UN Climate Report

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The UN said Monday that the world would pass the critical 1.5-degree Celsius global warming limit in about ten years, warning that the devastating effects of climate change are happening faster than expected.

In the last of a big series of reports released in a critical decade in human history, the UN’s climate advisory panel called for big cuts in emissions that heat the planet.

The main message of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that people have brought the world to the edge of a climate disaster, but there is still time to get global temperatures back down to safe levels.

That will take a lot of work from everyone everywhere.

The report’s “summary for policymakers” said, “Rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are needed to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and ensure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

The IPCC’s work will be the basis for intense political and economic negotiations over the next few years, starting with the UN COP28 climate negotiations in Dubai at the end of this year.

The 36-page summary, a combination of six major reports from 2018 to 2019, is a harsh reminder that even though people have the tools to stop a climate disaster, they are still not using them.

But, as the head of the IPCC told AFP, it is a “message of hope.”

Hoesung Lee said in a video interview, “We have the know-how, technology, tools, and money we need to solve the climate problems we’ve known about for so long.”

“Right now, what’s missing is a strong political will to solve these problems for good.”

‘Betrayal’

The IPCC said the world is currently on track to reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the early 2030s. This is the more ambitious and safer goal of the Paris Agreement, and it will make impacts worse in the near future.

Greta Thunberg, a climate activist, told AFP, “It will be seen and understood as an unprecedented betrayal that the people in power still live in denial and actively move in the wrong direction.”

At just under 1.2C of warming, the world has already seen a rise in dangerous weather that has killed and hurt many people. The weakest people have already been injured a lot.

Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London and the report’s lead author, told AFP that the warmest years we’d had so far would be among the coolest in the next 100 years.

The IPCC said that keeping global warming below 2C would be better for society and the world economy than the costs.

If the temperature goes above 1.5C, there could be extinctions on land and in the oceans, crop failures, and a higher chance of reaching so-called “tipping points” in the climate system, such as the death of coral reefs, which are home to a lot of different kinds of life, and faster melting of the polar ice sheets, which raises sea level.

“On Thin Ice”

In response to the report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that wealthy countries that want to be carbon neutral by 2050 or later should move their goal date as close as possible to 2040 to “defuse the climate time bomb.”

In a video message, he said, “Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast.” He called the IPCC report “a survival guide for humanity.”

The report comes when the world scrambles to ensure it has enough energy after Russia invaded Ukraine. Countries in Europe and Asia are turning to coal, which is very dirty, even though renewable energy sources are growing.

The energy sector will need to change quickly, the report said, since solar and wind power are already overgrowing.

The IPCC said carbon pollution from fossil fuel infrastructure would be enough to push the world’s temperature above 1.5C without using expensive and new technology to capture and store carbon pollution.

Scientists write the reports that comprise the IPCC, but governments from nearly 200 countries agree on the summary document.

There were fights about the language during the week-long talks about that text in Interlaken, Switzerland, which went two whole days past their end time.

Observers say that Saudi Arabian negotiators tried to water down parts of the agreement that emphasized how important fossil fuels are to global warming.

Even if warming is limited to 1.8C, which some scientists say is an optimistic scenario, research shows that by 2100, half of the world’s population could be at risk of dying from extreme heat and humidity.

The synthesis report shows these findings on a world map showing how humid heat is expected to kill people in the tropics, especially in parts of Southeast Asia, Brazil, and West Africa.


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