Climate report understates threat

Andrew Steer

Scientists have said the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C, the UN-backed study said.

Increasingly, you don't have to convince Australian farmers of that.

It represents the starkest warning yet from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If that happens, India may face serious consequences, including severe heat-stress in big cities and high air pollution levels, saltwater intrusion in coastal areas triggered by rise in sea levels and increased vulnerability to disasters in high mountain ecosystems, according to experts.

The report's release is expected to energize the annual United Nations.

"India and many other countries are already facing impact of 1 degree celsius of global warming". The impacts of 1.5°C of warming and the possible development pathways by which the world could get there are its main focus.

Greenpeace's Kaisa Kosonen summed up why the report matters: "Scientists might want to write in capital letters, "ACT NOW IDIOTS", but they need to say that with facts and numbers".

The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 nations at COP21 in December 2015, included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree celsius above pre -industrial levels".

"Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate", the report states. For instance, the Arctic is already experiencing warming that is many times higher than the global average.

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The U.N. group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shared the Nobel peace prize with Al Gore in 2007 for its work to share information about climate change.

Emissions cuts in transport, buildings, industry, power generation and dietary habits such as eating meat will need to take place in a bid to speed up temperature limits.

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an worldwide panel of scientists reported Sunday.

As more greenhouse gases lead to more warming, stabilising the planet's temperature at any level will require emissions to fall to zero overall.

Around 6 percent of insects, 8 percent of plants, and 4 percent of vertebrates are projected to be negatively affected by global warming of 1.5°C, namely by shrinking their natural geographic range, compared with 18 percent of insects, 16 percent of plants and 8 percent of vertebrates for global warming of 2°C. "The latter would be used as part of a now nonexistent program to get power from trees or plants and then bury the resulting carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, leading to a net subtraction of the gas from the air - bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS".

Billions of trees will have to be planted - and people may have to make hard choices between using land for food or using it for energy crops.

What's more, even a 1.5 C rise could create a "tipping point" situation that could cause further sea level rises, create shifts in monsoons in Asia and Africa, and even stop the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic. Mass flooding could take over coastlines and change geography as we know it.

The President has infamously called climate change a "hoax" several times, and his administration has acted to loosen or eliminate a bundle of regulations aimed at limiting earth-warming emissions.

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