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Major UN report says climate change is worse than first thought

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 - a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

'Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes, ' the IPCC's working group co-chairman Jim Skea said. While an increase of that magnitude would boost sea levels by as much as 77 centimeters by the end of the century, that would be about 10 centimeters lower than at 2 degrees, the report said.

As opposed to one sea ice-free Arctic summer per decade with 2°C global warming, one sea ice-free Arctic summer is projected per century with 1.5°C of global warming.

Also, coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5 degrees, while a two-degree increase would wipe them all out.

When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities, according to the report.

"That means every tonne of Carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere will have to be balanced by a tonne of Carbon dioxide taken out", said lead coordinating author Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford's Climate Research Programme.

The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report released Monday that urgent, global action is required to stave off the devastating implications of climate change.

Society would have to enact "unprecedented" changes to how it consumes energy, travels and builds to meet a lower global warming target or it risks increases in heat waves, flood-causing storms and the chances of drought in some regions as well as the loss of species, a United Nations report said on Monday.

Adam Bandt, the Greens climate spokesman, said the IPCC report showed it was "time to hit the climate emergency button", and that neither major party was prepared to take the necessary steps.

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The crisis is so dire that even if all the countries stick to their Paris Accord commitments, it still won't be enough to stop the planet heating by 2 degrees C or more. At least 70 percent of electricity supply will need to come from renewables by 2050 to stay within the 1.5C limit, compared with about 25 percent now.

"Most current and potential [carbon dioxide removal] measures could have significant impacts on land, energy, water, or nutrients if deployed at large scale", the report said.

There is no time for delay, warns the report, a consensus drawn from thousands of scientific studies.

Can we get climate change under control? Capturing emissions from natural gas plants and storing them underground would be necessary to enable more rapid cuts.

"The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it", said Amjad Abdulla, the IPCC board member and chief negotiator for an alliance of small island states at risk of flooding as sea levels rise.

Produced by 91 authors at the request of the group of governments which signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement, it outlines the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsuis above pre-industrial levels, and puts forward suggestions to contain global warming below that.

"Scientists are increasingly aware that every half degree of warming matters", Chris Weber, WWF's global climate and energy lead scientist, said in a statement. By 2050, they will need to reach "net zero" - any further CO₂ emissions due to human activity would then have to be matched by deliberate removal of CO₂ already in the atmosphere, including by planting trees.

How do we limit warming to the lower target of 1.5 degrees C?

The path to a climate-safe world has become a tightrope, and will require an unprecedented marshalling of human ingenuity, the authors said. "We have a lot of the solutions available to us today", she says.



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