IPCC calls for far-reaching changes to fight global warming

A firefighter fights a blaze near Yosemite National Park in August

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".

A new United Nations report has warned that unprecedented changes across all aspects of society are needed in order to limit risky global warming.

Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is issuing three special reports prior to issuing a full Sixth Assessment Report in 2023.

While the difference between 1.5 deg C and 2 deg C might seem small, some types of climate-change impact will be less severe by limiting global warming.

With a global temperature increase of 1.5C, there would be a 16 per cent increase in the number of hot days whereas with 2C, this rises further to 25 per cent.

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Their new report lays out the difficulty in stark detail: it would require a 40-50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 (global emissions are now rising).

Professor Jim Skea, from Imperial College London and one of the report researchers, said: "The changes that would be needed to keep global warming to 1.5C are really unprecedented in terms of their scale".

Greenpeace's Kaisa Kosonen summed up why the report matters: "Scientists might want to write in capital letters, "ACT NOW IDIOTS", but they need to say that with facts and numbers".

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or "overshoot" 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove Carbon dioxide from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. "But doing so would require unprecedented changes".

The report drew dire headlines such as CNN's "12 years to stop climate catastrophe", and The Washington Post's "The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, United Nations scientists say".

The scientists claim increased temperatures are leading to rising sea levels and other changes to the environment.

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Pan Africa Director of Oxfam International goes reporting: "To do nothing more and simply follow the commitments made in the Paris Agreement condemns the world to 3 degrees of warming". The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century, instead of at least once per decade. Temperatures would be 1.5C higher between 2030 and 2052 if the world continued at its current pace, it warned. He's with us now from South Korea where this report was released.

Coal power would also need to be reduced to nearly nothing.

It will also require a vast ramp-up in renewables so they generate 70-85 per cent of electricity supplies by 2050, while use of coal needs to fall from around 38 per cent to "close to 0 per cent" by 2050.

So how can we make sure that warming does not exceed 1.5°C and take us into highly unsafe territory?

The IPCC report said, "At +1.5 degrees Celsius, twice as many mega cities as present such as Lagos in Nigeria and Shanghai in China are likely to become heat stressed, potentially exposing more than 350 million more people to deadly heat stress by 2050".

The Government and its climate advisers have been waiting for the findings of the report.

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