Monday, 10 December, 2018

New climate change report details dangers that lie ahead

Gas boiler The report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for dramatic and urgent steps to cut emissions to zero by 2050
Melinda Barton | 09 October, 2018, 14:13

If every country fulfills the pledges it made for the Paris agreement in 2015, the world may still warm 2.6 to 3.2 degrees C by the end of the century, by some estimates.

This would mean replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles or other clean alternatives and scrapping the use of gas boilers in homes in just a few decades.

The IPCC study, which took almost three years to complete and involved 91 authors from 40 countries, is the first to look in detail at the 1.5 deg C limit, which is one of the goals in the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C would require rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment.

Coal consumption by Indian thermal generators needs to be cut by two thirds within 2030 and to nearly zero by 2050 if India has to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees said Greenpeace India in a statement. Therefore, even though urgent action is a necessity, it should be equitable and the onus of addressing climate change can not fall on the developing world.

World leaders could reverse the damage (to the tune of trillions of dollars), but that would depend largely on whether lawmakers want to invest in the cause.

Deep in the report, scientists say less than 2 percent of 529 of their calculated possible future scenarios kept warming below the 1.5 goal without the temperature going above that and somehow coming back down in the future. By 2050, we would have to hit net zero emissions-any remaining emissions would have to be counteracted by active removal of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The report found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at their current rate, the earth's atmosphere will warm up by as much as 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2040.

Using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the share of gas-fired power would need to be cut to 8 percent and coal to under 2 percent. For people, it would greatly reduce the risk of water shortages, food scarcity, and poverty related to climate change.

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

"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.

The IPCC calls for massive investments in renewable energy to meet climate-change goals, claiming that avoiding a catastrophe will involve "annual average investment needs in the energy system of around $2.4 trillion" between 2016 and 2035. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050.

While more than 180 countries have accepted the report's summary, the U.S. (which is the second biggest emitter in the world) said that their acceptance of the report does not "imply endorsement" of the findings.

"Small island nations and poor nations view 1.5 as the target that will guarantee their actual survival", Axios' science editor Andrew Freedman said Monday in an interview on Cheddar. The IPCC said it was possible to limit rises to 1.5C, but that sea levels would still rise, there would be loss of ecosystems and coral reefs, extinction threats would remain for insects, plants and animals and there was also the prospect of lower crop yields, loss marine fisheries and the disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic. For example, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 centimeters lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with 2 degrees Celsius.

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.

At the same time, however, the Liberals are supporting major projects that will increase Canada's capacity to export oil and gas for decades, including expansion of the Trans Mountain crude pipeline and construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

"There are material differences between 1.5 C and 2 C", says Cleetus.

"We need radical and systemic change", Li said. 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.

The report came as Americans William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, pioneers in adapting the western economic growth model to focus on environmental issues, won the 2018 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday.