United Nations climate change panel calls for rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes

Doug Carpenter
October 12, 2018

Making an unprecedented call to action, the United Nations' climate panel said that to avoid catastrophe, all countries must change the way their people eat, commute, farm and build - and the changes must kick in right away.

Temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius as soon as 2030 if global warming continues at its current pace and the world fails to take rapid and unprecedented measures to stem the increase, experts warned in a landmark United Nations report on Monday.

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

To contain warming at 1.5C, manmade global net carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach "net zero" by mid-century, the report said.

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

The report, which maps out four pathways to cap Earth's average surface temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels indicates that changes in individual behavior can make a difference. Coral reefs, which risk decline by more than 99% at 2C, would reduce by 70 to 90%.


The report is comprehensive, citing over 6,000 scientific references, and its basic message is this: limiting warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels will require an unprecedented amount of effort, but a rise of 2 degrees would be far more harmful and ultimately more costly, too. "It was given to me and I want to look who drew it, you know - which groups drew it because I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren't so good", he told reporters.

Tweeting shortly after the report was launched UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that it is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the report.

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.

Carbon emissions need to reach "net zero" by 2050 and almost halve from 2010 levels by 2030.

According to the authors of the study, limiting the rise in temperature to 1.5 °C, rather than 2°C is vital if humanity hopes to mitigate some of the most devastating effects of climate change.

These unprecedented changes will fundamentally challenge how business has been conducted for decades in a globalised world.


As the report concludes: "There is no simple answer to the questions of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5 C and to adapt to the consequences".

It also lays out courses of action that could be taken to keep the rise in check.

So how can we make sure that warming does not exceed 1.5°C and take us into highly risky territory?

The Government and its climate advisers have been waiting for the findings of the report.

"Today the world's leading scientific experts collectively reinforced what mother nature has made clear - that we need to undergo an urgent and rapid transformation to a global clean energy economy", former US Vice President Al Gore said.


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