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Climate change report urges immediate action

Well, it's time to buckle up folks because unless we take drastic action, and soon, catastrophe may be inevitable.

With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday.

"The reality is that we're very off track from where we need to be", says Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, who was not involved with the new report. Coral reefs would nearly entirely disappear with 2 degrees of warming, with just 10-30% of existing reefs surviving at 1.5 °C.

Can we get climate change under control?

But really whacky ideas, such as blocking out the Sun, or adding iron to the oceans have been dismissed by this IPCC report.

The report, which is based on more than 6,000 scientific references from 91 authors across 40 countries, including those from Australian researchers, outlines the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

The IPCC report noted the world is rapidly losing any chance to limit average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, though there is still a theoretical chance if the political will existed.

"Every 10 years, climate scientists say we have 10 years left to save the planet", Mr. Heller said.

As the goal posts have moved, so too has our definition of "severe". 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. He says that researchers will provide a more comprehensive look at the numbers in the next full climate assessment, which is scheduled to be released in 2021.

Areas like sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean would still suffer from droughts, but farms would be able to grow more food than they could with 2 degrees of warming.

His colleague Hoesung Lee, the head of the panel, says if we fail to stymie that increase, it could mean deadly conditions for millions of people, sea levels will rise, corals will be completely wiped out, and we could be experiencing a lot more heat waves like the one we saw this past summer.

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It seems that what was once our worst case scenario may now be one of our best. "Each year that the global economy fails to decarbonize at the required rate, the two-degree goal becomes more hard to achieve".

In a statement to accompany the report, the IPCC said limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to 2 degrees "would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050.

"There is a role for high-quality Australian coal and it's compatible with meeting Paris emissions reductions targets", Ian Macfarlane, council chief executive and a former Coalition energy minister. "However, time is running out, so we must capitalize and build on the solutions available today".

McCormack said he "understands the concerns" expressed in the IPCC report, but admitted he hadn't read it yet. "This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people's needs".

On a jarring note, the United States announced that it accepted the report - in effect stopped short of vetoing it - but it did not endorse the content and the findings in the report.

President Trump announced in June he would pull out of the Paris accord, saying it would put the US economy at a global disadvantage.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or "overshoot" 1.5 °C 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.

"We have done our job, we have now passed on the message", Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London's Centre for Environmental Policy and an IPCC co-chair, said at a press conference.

"It's now their responsibility ... to decide whether they can act on it".

The environment minister, Melissa Price, said the IPCC report was created to inform policymakers but was not "policy prescriptive".



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