What the shock United Nations climate report means for Southern Africa
- Laurence Reese
The stunning statistics were released Monday in a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that we must take "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" in order to save our planet. "Even the scientists were surprised to see how much science was already there and how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2", Thelma Krug, vice-chair of the IPCC, told Reuters in an interview. To get there, emissions would have to be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, with further action required by 2050.
However, keeping global warming below this level will require "annual average investment needs in the energy system of around $2.4 trillion (around €20.8 trillion)" between 2016 and 2035, according to the report. However, the agreement calls on countries to pursue measures to cap the rise to 1.5°C. Adding another half-degree Celsius on top of that - the looser global goal - essentially means a different and more challenging Earth for people and species, said another of the report's lead authors, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia.
"One of the key messages that come out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes", said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I. In the aggregate they are larger if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees C. Some impacts may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems.
More than 2,500 were killed in India when temperatures reached highs of 48 degrees between May and June three years ago.
More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that almost ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfall events such as hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are also pointed to as expectations as we reach the warming threshold.
The report is based on an analysis of more than 6,000 scientific papers, reviewed by climate scientists from 40 countries.
"Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics", said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. Nations settled on a target of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C a while back.
The report reads, "Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 degree Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 degree celsius to 1.2 degree celsius".
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U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord past year, invoking concerns for the U.S. economy, and has espoused pro-fossil fuel policies.
And she said: "Today's report by the IPCC makes clear that avoiding risky climate change will require a transformational effort, and that is precisely what Labour is offering - a plan to rapidly decarbonise our energy system as part of a green jobs revolution, and a long term target of net zero emissions before 2050".
The Nobel Prize-winning IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options.
In the United Kingdom, where existing legal targets require 80pc cuts in emissions by 2050, the government is under pressure to strengthen action on climate change. But even though the world has already warmed by 1 °C, humanity has 10-30 more years than scientists previously thought in which to kick its carbon habit.
Currently, a few experimental methods exist that can snatch carbon dioxide directly out of the air, but at up to $1,000 per ton of carbon dioxide, the price tag of such carbon capture is staggering-and billions of tons await extraction.
Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or "overshoot" 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove Carbon dioxide from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. 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. "But doing so would require unprecedented changes".
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