People's Stories Environment

World nowhere near on track to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target
by Oliver Milman
Guardian news, agencies
Oct. 2018
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that there is only 12 years for the planet to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C warming to avoid environmental breakdown.
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC working group, 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.”
Political leaders have been urged to act on the report. Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who led the historic Paris agreement of 2015, said: “There is nothing opaque about this new data. The illustrations of mounting impacts, the fast-approaching and irreversible tipping points are visceral versions of a future that no policy-maker could wish to usher in or be responsible for.”
The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, upgraded its risk warning from previous reports, and warned that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.
At 1.5C the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C, it notes. Food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.
At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced this summer, would become more severe and common.
The IPCC maps out pathways to achieve 1.5C. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems. Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.
“We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.” He said the main finding of his group was the need for urgency.
Johan Rockström, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said; “Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful.. This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.”
27 Sep 2018
Author of key UN climate report says limiting temperature rise would require immediate transformation in human activity.
The world’s governments are “nowhere near on track” to meet their commitment to avoid global warming of more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial period, according to an author of a key UN report that will outline the dangers of breaching this limit.
A massive, immediate transformation in the way the world’s population generates energy, uses transportation and grows food will be required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C and the forthcoming analysis is set to lay bare how remote this possibility is.
“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” said Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which will be unveiled in South Korea next month.
“While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”
In the 2015 Paris climate pact, international leaders agreed to curb the global temperature rise to 2C above the era prior to mass industrialization, with an aspiration to limit this to 1.5C. The world has already warmed by around 1C over the past century, fueling sea level rises, heatwaves, droughts, storms and the decline of vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs.
Shindell said that the 1.5C goal would require a precipitous drop in greenhouse emissions triggered by a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, particularly coal, mass deployment of solar and wind energy and the eradication of emissions from cars, trucks and airplanes.
The fading prospect of keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5C has provoked alarm among leaders of low-lying island nations that risk being inundated should the world warm beyond this point.
“Every country must increase the ambition of their existing targets,” said Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, which announced a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the UN general assembly in New York this week. “If we can do it, so can everyone else.”
The UN general assembly has again pitted the world’s countries against Donald Trump when it comes to climate change, with the US president using his keynote speech to praise “clean coal”. Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord, a stance that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, told the UN should be met with consequences such as a refusal by countries to enter into trade deals with the US.
“It’s a lot more difficult without the US as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s environment minister, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the US isn’t there.”
Elvestuen said countries, including Norway, which is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, need to transition away from fossil fuels, embrace electric cars and halt deforestation.
He admitted these changes had not happened quickly enough since the Paris deal. Last year, global greenhouse gas emissions rose again.
“We are moving way too slowly,” Elvestuen said. “We have to do more of everything, faster. We need to deliver on policies at every level. Governments normally move slowly but we don’t have the time.”
“The 1.5C target is challenging, but it’s possible. The next four years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead. The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate. To reach the goals of the Paris agreement we need large structural changes.”
A difference of 0.5C in temperature may appear small but the IPCC report, which is a summary of leading climate science, warns there will be major impacts if warming reaches 2C.
“Even 1.5C is no picnic, really,” said Dr Tabea Lissner, head of adaptation and vulnerability at Climate Analytics.
Lissner said a world beyond 1.5C warming meant the Arctic would be ice-free in summer, around half of land-based creatures would be severely affected and deadly heatwaves would become far more common. “0.5C makes quite a big difference,” she said. IPCC Summary (34pp):

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National governments must act to cut emissions to stave off worst impacts of climate change
by Reuters, WFP, IOM, Oxfam, agencies
Sep. 2018
Emissions cuts promised by cities and businesses fall way short of enabling countries to avoid breaching agreed thresholds for dangerous warming.
A cavalcade of city mayors, regional government representatives and business executives from around the world will convene in San Francisco this month for a major summit touting the role of action beyond national governments to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
But the greenhouse gas cuts offered up by these entities are relatively modest, according to new research, placing the onus on nations to raise their ambitions even as the US, the world’s second largest emitter, looks to exit the landmark Paris climate agreement.
An evaluation of climate change pledges by nearly 6,000 cities, states and regions, representing 7% of the global population, and more than 2,000 companies that have a combined revenue comparable to the size of the US economy, found a total projected reduction of between 1.5bn to 2.2bn tons of greenhouse gases by 2030.
In some places this action will be significant, such as in the US, where shifts to cleaner energy and energy efficiency by cities and states are on track to contribute half of the emissions reductions promised by the country in the Paris agreement.
But globally these emissions cuts fall far short of enabling countries to avoid breaching agreed thresholds for dangerous warming that will trigger increased heatwaves, stronger storms, rising seas and displacement of people.
“When we look at the individual pledges [by cities, regions and businesses] the impact isn’t that large so we absolutely need national governments to pull through and do a lot more of the heavy lifting,” said Dr Angel Hsu, the director of Data-Driven Yale, which led the study.
“The actions of cities, companies and states aren’t insignificant but they can’t do it by themselves. The current reductions are woefully inadequate and hopefully the actions of other entities will give national governments the impetus to be more ambitious.”
The analyzed reductions, taken from nine high-emitting countries such as the US, China, India and Brazil, as well as the European Union, overlap with some national efforts that increase the total contribution of emissions cuts.
But this action isn’t sufficient to bridge a gap between the Paris agreement’s goal to avoid 2C (3.6F) of global warming, with an aspiration of avoiding a 1.5C increase, and the insufficient emissions reductions put forward by the deal’s nearly 200 national signatories.
The agenda of the Trump administration risks making this goal even more challenging. Trump has promised to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement and has unveiled a plan to weaken vehicle emissions standards that could result in more than 1bn tons of extra carbon dioxide over the next 15 years. Last week, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency announced a watered-down climate policy for the energy sector that might even result in emissions rising from coal plants.
Even if every Paris commitment is fully implemented, the world is on track to warm by around 3.3C by the end of the century. Pledges by the likes of Berlin and California “while welcome, are not sufficient”, said John Sterman, the director of the MIT system dynamics group.
“The world is in a desperate race between accelerating climate change and the innovation needed to cut emissions before it’s too late,” said Sterman. “Cities, states, and business face stiff headwinds from weak national policies and the continued efforts of fossil fuel interests to undermine the innovation we need.”
Klaus Lackner, the director of the center for carbon emissions at Arizona State University says, “We need to stop using the atmosphere as a dumping ground, abandon fossil fuels, find other sources of energy and deal with the carbon debt we already have.. Cities getting involved is good and important but we haven’t really acknowledged how big and serious the challenge is. We are whistling in the dark.”
Sep. 2018
Leaders of Pacific Forum call on United States to return to Paris agreement on climate change.
Climate change is the single greatest security threat to the Pacific, and all countries must meet their commitments under the Paris climate agreement, the 18 countries of the Pacific Islands Forum said this week.
The Boe Declaration says all Pacific nations, “reaffirm that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific, and our commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris agreement.
“Leaders reaffirmed the importance of immediate urgent action to combat climate change and … called on countries, particularly large emitters, to fully implement their … mitigation targets, including through the development and transfer of renewable energy, in line with committed timeframes.”
Leaders of the Forum Islands countries also called for the US to return to the Paris agreement and the commitments it made under President Barack Obama.
The prime minister of Samoa Tuilaepa berated leaders who fail to take climate change seriously, singling out Australia, as well as India, China and the US, which he said were the “three countries that are responsible for all this disaster”.
“Any leader of those countries who believes that there is no climate change I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement, he is utterly stupid and I say the same thing for any leader who says there is no climate change.”
“While climate change may be considered a slow onset threat by some, its adverse impacts are already felt by our Pacific islands peoples and communities,” said Sailele. “Greater ambition is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade and Pacific island countries continue to urge faster action by all countries.”
13 Sep. 2018
Climate change is a symptom of our broken economy, by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International.
This week I have the honor of speaking on behalf of civil society at the Global Climate Action Summit, hosted by California Governor Brown in San Francisco. It''s a chance to build new momentum in the fight against climate change. Momentum that is desperately needed.
As I write, Hurricane Florence is hurtling towards the US East Coast. The North Carolina Governor has called it a "disaster on the doorstep". US weather reporters say they have never seen anything like it. The poorest, the most vulnerable will be hardest hit - they always are. That''s the reality of extreme weather all over the world, even in the richest countries on Earth.
This week we learned that the number of extreme climate-related disasters in poor countries has shot up in the last 25 years. Worse still, the UN confirmed that global hunger is rising again, with our changing climate a leading cause. We''ve seen close to 10 years of progress in ending hunger reversed in the last 3 years. Oxfam has been warning for years that climate change would put the fight against hunger back by decades. It''s now happening before our eyes.
My message for the Climate Action Summit is that there is devastating human costs to delaying actions to bring greenhouse gas emissions down and support those on the frontlines of extreme weather. I see the human face of climate change in our work all over the world. More often than not, it''s a woman''s face I see. In unequal societies, women are far more likely to die in natural disasters. By some estimates, 80% of those forced to leave their homes by climate change are women.
Quick fixes won''t work. A root cause of this crisis lies in our broken economic model. Economic thinking that produces extreme inequality in our societies. Where a handful of the very rich, own more wealth than half the global population. It''s the same thinking that prioritises GDP growth above all else - masking the lives of people in poverty, obscuring the cost of economic activity to the environment and hiding from view the unpaid care work of billions of women around the world. It''s an economy - bluntly put - in which the environment and ordinary people are exploitable resources for the rich.
So if we are serious about keeping global warming below 1.5C - meaning net zero global emissions by mid-century - we need to re-think the very purpose of our public policies and of our businesses. We need a more human economy - one that prioritises the many over the few, and keeps within the boundaries our planet can bear.
In driving emissions down, it is increasingly developing countries that are leading the charge. Later this year, 49 of the most vulnerable are hosting the world''s first virtual climate summit to keep the drum-beat for climate action going. They''ve agreed a vision of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
We''re seeing those least responsible for causing climate change, committing to do the most to tackle it. They are breaking down the old order. So too are the marches for climate action we''re seeing around the world. They show there is popular pressure for a new kind of economy.
One way for leaders to step up is to finally renounce coal power, the most polluting of all fossil fuels. Oxfam believes it is time for a worldwide end to coal - not a single new power plant should be built anywhere any more. Our research shows that every dollar invested in coal in Asia, for example, means $10 in damages from climate change. Health costs from local pollution come on top. It''s the economics of self-harm, and it''s time to end it. Climate change is the greatest humanitarian crisis we face. The time for tinkering is over. We must rise to the challenge.

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