Landmark UN report warns climate change could make Earth 'unliveable'

Landmark UN report warns climate change could make Earth 'unliveable'
The earth's temperature has risen 1C and experts say we are heading toward an unlivable 3C rise unless drastic action is taken.
2 min read
08 October, 2018
Steam rises from a chemical plant in Germany [Getty]

The UN said averting climate disaster will require social and economic transformation that is "unprecedented in scale" in a new landmark report released on Monday.

The report warned that earth's temperature has warmed one degree Celsius -- enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts -- and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

The report said with "high confidence" earth's temperature could pass the 1.5C threshold as early as 2030, and no later than mid-century.

"The next few years are probably the most important in human history," Debra Roberts, head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in Durban, South Africa, and an Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change co-chair, told AFP.

The 400-page report says that global warming has marched forward at a pace much faster than humanity's efforts to tame it.

Before the Paris Agreement was inked in 2015, nearly a decade of scientific research rested on the assumption that 2C was the guardrail for a climate-safe world.

The IPCC report, however, shows that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted.

The report added that to have at least a 50/50 chance of staying under the 1.5C cap, the world must, by 2050, become "carbon neutral". 

Drawing from more than 6,000 recent scientific studies, the report laid out four pathways to that goal.

The most ambitious would see a radical drawdown in energy consumption coupled with a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and a swift decline in CO2 emissions starting in 2020. It would also avoid an "overshoot" of the 1.5C threshold.

A contrasting "pay later" scenario compensates for a high-consumption lifestyles and continued use of fossil fuels with a temporary breaching of the 1.5C ceiling. 

It depends heavily on the use of biofuels. But the scheme would need to plant an area twice the size of India in biofuel crops, and assumes that some 1,200 billion tonnes of CO2 -- 30 years' worth of emissions at current rates -- can be safely locked away underground.

But in either case limiting global warming to 1.5C comes with a hefty price tag: some $2.4 trillion of investments in the global energy system every year between 2016 and 2035, or about 2.5 percent of world GDP. 

And major world powers like the United States, which under President Donald Trump have walked away from the 2015 Paris climate accord, have yet to pursue the sweeping change the IPCC calls for.

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