Changes humanity must make to avoid extinction

Rising flood in Lokoja…on Friday PHOTO: JOHN AKUBO

*UN report warns world has just 12 years to halt global warming before planet is plunged into extreme heat, drought, floods, poverty
*Wants people to eat less meat, give up car, cut out coal for good, begin extensive planting of forests, storing carbon underground

The United Nations (UN) has reeled out unprecedented changes humanity must make to avoid extinction from catastrophic climate change in twelve years.

A special report on limiting global warming released on Monday by a UN scientific panel, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming before planet is plunged into extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty.

The scientists found preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people.

However, they provide little hope humanity will rise to the challenge.

Overall, the Earth has to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced each year by 45 per cent by 2030 – and reduce CO2 production to zero by 2050.

In order to reach this, society will need to make ‘unprecedented’ changes including closing hundreds of coal-fired power stations and rapidly switching to renewable energy.

The UN report warns limiting global warming to 1.5C will cost the world $2.4 trillion (£1.8 trillion) every year for the next two decades.

Part of the changes humanity must make to avoid extinction, according to the UN report, include:
*Burning of coal needs to fall from 38 per cent to ‘close to 0 per cent’ by 2050
*Renewables need to provide 85 per cent of global electricity by 2050
*We need a radical change in diet as eating meat makes more CO2 than vegetables
*Extensive planting of forests will be needed to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere
*Need to start storing carbon underground, known as bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (Beccs)

The IPCC issued the report from Incheon, Republic of Korea, where for the past week, hundreds of scientists and government representatives have been poring over thousands of inputs to paint a picture of what could happen to the planet and its population with global warming of 1.5°C (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Limiting global warming will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to human behaviour, according to the panel. “We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of one of the IPCC Working Groups.

The landmark Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The dramatic report warned that the planet is currently heading to warm by 3C – and to slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.

Scientists have said the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C, the UN-backed study said.

Pre-industrial levels refer to the climate before the industrial revolution when greenhouse gas emissions were stable. Since the mid-1800s the climate has already warmed by 1C.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

With that in mind, the report calls for huge changes in land, energy, industry, buildings, and transportation-use and across cities everywhere. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach “net zero” around 2050.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperatures to below 1.5°C by 2100.

But the report warns that “the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.”

“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 (SDGs),” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, referring to the 17 Goals adopted by UN Member States three years ago to protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

The new report will feed into a process called the ‘Talanoa Dialogue,’ in which parties to the Paris accord will take stock of what has been accomplished over the past three years. The dialogue will be a part of the next UNFCCC conference of States parties, known by the shorthand COP 24, which will meet in Katowice, Poland, this December.

The UN Secretary-General said that the Katowice conference was a “can’t-fail moment.”

“The international community must emerge with critically important implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement,” he said, adding that all countries now needed to “heed the counsel of the world’s top scientists: raise ambition, rapidly strengthen their national climate action plans, and urgently accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement.”

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