The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report by authors of the landmark released on Monday advice all countries must make rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes across sectors to keep the increase to within 1.5°C over the early preindustrial levels (1850-1900) to stop the devastating consequences of climate change.
Even a fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact, said the most dire risk assessment report ever, warning that the world is off track to meet its 2015 Paris Agreement commitment to keep the average global temperatures “well below” 2°C.
The climate change is a ticking bomb counting down to 2052, the zero year after which even a half degree increase in global temperature will lead to searing heat waves, heavy rainfall, droughts, floods and other extreme weather conditions that will lower agricultural yield, cause food and water scarcities and push millions into poverty, the world’s leading climate scientists have warned.
The world is already 1°Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial levels and, if present trends continue, the rise in average temperatures will breach the critical barrier of 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.
The bizarre flooding in Kerala, drought in Cape Town and searing heat waves in Europe are signs that climate change is already happening. Limiting warming to 1.5°C by making green changes in energy consumption, land and water use and transportation can help mitigate the potential damage to an extent.
To ensure survival in the planet, global CO2 emissions have to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and renewables must provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050 to meet targets. All this would need an annual average investment of around $2.4 trillion in energy systems to move from coal to renewables between 2016 and 2035. Keeping emissions down, however, will boost economic growth and save the expenditure on catastrophic fallouts of climate change. That means putting money into saving the planet before it reaches tipping point. This makes ecological and economic sense.
Scientists who reviewed the 6,000 works referenced in the report, said the change caused by just half a degree came as a revelation. “We can see there is a difference and it’s substantial,” Roberts said.
Policymakers commissioned the report at the Paris climate talks in 2016, but since then the gap between science and politics has widened. Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the US – the world’s biggest source of historical emissions – from the accord.
“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency.”