10 Things We Learned from the UN Climate Change Report
The UN has published its most in-depth study into climate change and the potential implications to every country and individual on the planet.
And their findings are damning.
Under the Paris climate agreement, nations set a goal of limiting warming toa 3.6°F, or 2 °C, increase in global average temperatures, with ambitions of a stricter limit of 2.7°F, or 1.5°C of warming.
The UN then asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to figure out what it would take to hit the 1.5°C target, and what’s in store for the world if we did pull it off.
The IPCC examined more than 6,000 scientific publications, drew contributions from 132 authors, and had more than 1,000 scientists review the findings.
It makes for grim reading – but there is also hope that we can turn the tide of climate change and ensure that our planet is habitable for future generations. This can be done if governments and people work together to achieve it.
These from 10 key takeaways from the 700 page study.
1. A difference of just half a degree will have an enormous impact, something which the scientists weren’t expecting. A 1.5C increase in temperature means that the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C. 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.
2. 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.
3. Sea-level rises would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if we reach a 2C warming. The difference between a 1.5C rise and a 2C rise would be a 10cm rise in water levels on coastal regions. Already some low-lying island nations are at risk of being completely submerged.
4. At the current level of commitments, the planet is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming by 2100.
5. There is no avoiding the costs of climate change; we either invest now to clamp down on greenhouse gases, or we pay down the line through property damage and lost lives.
6. To keep temperatures from rising to more than 1.5C in the long term, countries need to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, with steep cuts in other greenhouse gases such as methane.
7. There’s no way to hit the 1.5°C target without removing carbon dioxide from the air so methods to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere will also need to be couple with a reduction in carbon emissions.
8. There is only about 12 years left for us take action against global warming and to keep the increase to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. After that, a minimum rise of 2C is the best we can hope for.
9. Nothing positive is going to happen unless there is more investment, better policies and acceleration of new technology.
10. Change is possible within laws of physics and chemistry. However, this has to be coupled with behaviour change. And no change will be possible unless there is international cooperation – that includes civil society, the private sector, local communities, and indigenous people.
Only time will tell if this becomes just another report which gathers headlines. Or if we are finally going to take collective action to stop and reverse the damage of our planet.