United Nations report warns of possible climate disaster by 2040

A woman rides a bicycle past a display of letters reading “#Reasons for hope” set up by Greenpeace activists prior to a press conference of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change at Songdo Convensia in Incheon. — AFP

These three leaders have the potential to provide Churchillian leadership to stabilize the world's climate, starting by rallying the G20 countries responsible for 80 percent of the problem. It concludes that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current pace, coastal flooding could become intense and droughts severe by 2040.

Keeping the Earth's temperature rise to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rather than the 2C target agreed to at the Paris Agreement talks in 2015, would have "clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems", the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday in a statement announcing the report's release.

The U.N. report may heighten pressure on governments to adopt tougher policies. The 1.5 was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2 degrees a death sentence.

Action in cities - which consume more than two-thirds of energy globally and account for about three-quarters of carbon emissions - are pivotal to meeting the target, said report author William Solecki, a professor at Hunter College-City University of NY.

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.

The IPCC report underwent an extensive peer-review process that elicited tens of thousands of comments and includes a special "summary for policymakers" that resulted from discussions among scientists and government officials last week in Incheon, South Korea, the Post reports.

But the effects of not meeting the 1.5C target would mean huge changes to the world. While he observed that numerous questions might have been better put to Nordhaus, he gave a formidable performance, demonstrating how the issues of climate change are not far from his main focus either. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5 °C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. And an even smaller carbon budget, which would allow a 66 percent chance of hitting the target, was declared likely out of reach already. Vestas, says Zevin in a recent report, "has led research and development" to reduce the cost of wind power, approaching parity with traditional energy sources on a level cost basis. Carbon would have to be taxed as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 (compared to $7 per ton suggested by the Trump administration).

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Temperatures are now about 1° C higher than preindustrial levels. While nascent and not conclusive in its findings-two of the reasons you won't find it referenced in the IPCC report-the study warned that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, almost 12,000 years ago.

But these new values aren't watertight, either. And given the current state of political support for the Paris Climate Accord, it is hard not to despair. "N$3 et zero must be the new global mantra".

The new IPCC report generally takes this approach.

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

Another recent report from the consulting firm PwC makes it clear that even limiting warming to 2 degrees C will be a stretch: "There seems to be nearly zero chance of limiting warming to well below two degrees (the main goal of the Paris Agreement), though widespread use of carbon capture and storage technologies, including Natural Climate Solutions, may make this possible", it says.

The 2018 Nobel prize for economics was awarded to William Nordhaus, a Yale University economist who pioneered the economic analysis of climate change.

"Every half a degree of warming matters", said IPCC Chair, Hoesung Lee.

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