12 years to save the world from irreversible dangerous changes, leading scientists say

The world faces significant and dangerous changes if we fail to keep temperatures below 1.5C according to the latest report by scientists which sends out a stark warning to politicians and policymakers.

No more coral reefs, increased chances of flooding and drought and the accelerated melting of both poles are just some of the possible outcomes if the world fails to get to grips with global warming in the next 12 years, say the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The authors of the report have provided the sternest warning to date about the need for urgent action if the world is to keep global temperatures between 1.5C and 2C – as even half a degree is believed to significantly worsen risks.

The 33-page report issued says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030 if drastic measures are not taken immediately. The world is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed 1C.

Necessary steps for change include global emissions of CO2 to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, renewables providing up to 85% of global electricity by 2050, coal to be reduced close to zero and up to seven million sq km of land needed for energy crops.

However, all this change will not come cheap with the annual average investment in the energy system needing to reach levels of $2.4 trillion between 2016 and 2035, the IPCC state.

Commenting on the paper’s release, Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts, said: “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. This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

Scientists predict that sea levels would rise by 10cm and impact around 10 million more people by 2100 if temperatures continued to increase to 2C and that number could skyrocket in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.

"Both poles are melting at an accelerated rate; ancient trees that have been there for hundreds of years are suddenly dying; and the summer we've just experienced - basically the whole world was on fire."
Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace.

Priyardarshi Shukla, co-chair of IPCC, said: “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Warnings produced today follows three years of research and is a result of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In 2015, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C. But the agreement has been undermined with the likes of USA pulling out only 18 months later after Donald Trump cited it being unfair to the country.

"We are already in the danger zone at one degree of warming," said Kaisa Kosonen from the environmental charity Greenpeace. "Both poles are melting at an accelerated rate; ancient trees that have been there for hundreds of years are suddenly dying; and the summer we've just experienced - basically, the whole world was on fire."

Responding to the report, Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) said the paper "is a wake-up call for governments and businesses across the globe". 

"The construction and property industry in the UK is an economic juggernaut, and our buildings account for approximately 30% of carbon emissions," she added. "It is also the industry with the most cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions so it will be a vital catalyst for change in the wider economy. At UKGBC we know that built environment businesses can, and must, lead the charge against climate change. Our Advancing Net Zero programme is a collaborative initiative to drive the transition to a net zero carbon built environment by 2050 – which would be commensurate with the 1.5°C limit. Only by all working together to effect change at speed and at scale will we stand any chance of rising to the challenge outlined today.”

STA’s chief executive Chris Hewett, said: "The IPCC report today amplifies already very widespread calls for the UK Government to get behind low-cost solar and wind. The message couldn't be clearer; time is running out. Our industry stands ready to roll out solutions which are extremely popular with the public, and no longer require subsidy, but government has put too many barriers in the way.”

A spokesman for the National Infrastructure Commission said the report highlights the devastating impact that rising global temperatures could have and the need for urgent action.

“Our National Infrastructure Assessment highlights the need to act now to protect communities from extremes of weather, including floods and droughts,” the spokesman added. “It also shows how falling renewables prices and improved technologies mean sources like wind and solar could make up as much as 50% of our energy mix by 2030, and the need for a truly national charging network to help drivers switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles. These recommendations have been put to government and we look forward to hearing how they plan to put them into practice.”

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