Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

‘Halve emissions or face catastrophe’: Landmark UN report warn the world has just 12 YEARS to halt global warming before the planet is plunged into extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty

-The dramatic report warned that the planet is currently heading to warm by 3C

-Keeping warming to less than 1.5C will require ‘unprecedented changes’

-This will include huge changes to power generation, industry and transport

-Use of coal needs to fall from around 38 per cent to ‘close to 0 per cent’ by 2050

-The report – backed by the UN – says the scale of the challenge is vast

A landmark report by the UN has warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming before the planet is plunged into extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty.

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people, scientists found.

However, they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

Overall, the Earth has to reduce the amount of CO2 produced each year by 45 per cent by 2030 – and reduce CO2 production to zero by 2050.

The dramatic report warned that the planet is currently heading to warm by 3C and keeping warming to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.

At 1.5C the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C, it notes. Food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.

At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer, would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths and causing more forest fires.

But the greatest difference would be to nature. Insects, which are vital for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C compared with 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached.

Sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines. The number affected would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.

Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. One model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C, twice the decline at 1.5C.

Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times fast than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C, but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming.

Time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.

The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”

He said the main finding of his group was the need for urgency. Although unexpectedly good progress has been made in the adoption of renewable energy, deforestation for agriculture was turning a natural carbon sink into a source of emissions. Carbon capture and storage projects, which are essential for reducing emissions in the concrete and waste disposal industries, have also ground to a halt.

Reversing these trends is essential if the world has any chance of reaching 1.5C without relying on the untried technology of solar radiation modification and other forms of geo-engineering, which the IPCC says may not work and could have negative consequences.

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