Report shows global warming impacts have come sooner, hit harder than predicted Limiting global warming to 1.5°C costs $2.4 trillion or 2.5 pct of world GDP
Avoiding global climate chaos will require a major transformation of society and the world economy that is “unprecedented in scale”, the United Nations said Monday in a landmark report that warns time is running out to avert disaster.
Earth’s surface has warmed 1 degree Celsius — enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts — and is on track toward an unlivable 3 degrees or 4 degrees rise.
At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, we could pass the 1.5 degrees marker as early as 2030, and no later than mid-century, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) reported with “high confidence”.
“The next few years are probably the most important in human history,” Debra Roberts, head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in Durban, South Africa, and an IPCC co-chair, told AFP.
A Summary for Policymakers of the 400-page tome underscores how quickly global warming has outstripped humanity’s attempt to tame it, and outlines options for avoiding the worst ravages of a climate-addled future.
“We have done our job, we have now passed on the message,” Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Center for Environmental Policy and an IPCC co-chair, said at a press conference. “Now it is over to governments — it’s their responsibility to act on it.”
Before the Paris Agreement was inked in 2015, nearly a decade of scientific research rested on the assumption that 2 degrees was the guardrail for a climatesafe world.
The IPCC report, however, shows that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted.
“Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP. To have at least a 50/50 chance of staying under the 1.5 degrees cap without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become “carbon neutral”, according to the report.
“That means every ton of CO2 we put into the atmosphere will have to be balanced by a ton of CO2 taken out,” said lead coordinating author Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford’s Climate Research Program.
Drawing from more than 6,000 recent scientific studies, the report laid out four pathways to that goal.
The most ambitious would see a radical drawdown in energy consumption coupled with a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and a swift decline in CO2 emissions starting in 2020. It would also avoid an “overshoot” of the 1.5 degrees threshold.
A contrasting “pay later” scenario compensates for a highconsumption lifestyles and continued use of fossil fuels with a temporary breaching of the 1.5 degrees ceiling.
It depends heavily on the use of biofuels. But the scheme would need to plant an area twice the size of India in biofuel crops, and assumes that some 1,200 billion tons of CO2 — 30 years’ worth of emissions at current rates — can be safely locked away underground.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees comes with a hefty price tag: some US$2.4 trillion of investments in the global energy system every year between 2016 and 2035, or about 2.5 percent of world gross domestic product.
That amount, however, must be weighed against the even steeper cost of inaction, the report says.
The path to a climate-safe world has become a tightrope, and will require an unprecedented marshalling of human ingenuity, the authors said. “The problem isn’t going to be solved with a silver bullet,” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, told AFP.
The IPCC report was timed to feed into the December UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where world leaders will be under pressure to ramp up national carbon-cutting pledges which — even if fulfilled — would yield a 3 degrees world.
The week-long meeting in South Korea — already deep into overtime — deadlocked on Saturday when oil giant Saudi Arabia demanded the deletion of a passage noting the need for global CO2 emissions to decline “well before 2030”.