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Climate Change: Time Running Out for Earth, UN Report Warns

Climate Change UN
Climate change is already impacting the population of polar bears. Credit: AWeith , CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

A UN report on climate change warned on Monday that the chance to secure a livable future for everyone on Earth is slipping away.

That was the dire message from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has been compiled after more than six years of work by thousands of climate scientists around the globe.

“There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” the report’s authors wrote. UN chief Antonio Guterres said the report is a “survival guide for humanity”.

UN says global temperature goal to be missed

At a meeting in Switzerland to agree on their findings, climate scientists warned a key global temperature goal will likely be missed.

Governments had previously agreed to act to avoid global temperature rise going above 1.5C. But the world has already warmed by 1.1C and now experts say that it is likely to breach 1.5C in the 2030s.

The technology needed to adapt to climate change and keep harmful emissions at bay is available, the report says, arguing that a clear path exists to a more sustainable world and a stable climate.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement. The report “shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

The new study aims to boil down to one slim volume several landmark findings on the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change that have been released since 2018.

UN’s climate change report explains how things will get worse

It outlines the significant impacts that climate change is having on the world already, and explains that these will get much worse.

By 2100 extreme coastal flooding that used to happen once-a-century is expected to occur at least annually in half of the world’s tidal gauge locations – places where sea level recordings are made.

Concentrations of the warming gas CO2 in the atmosphere are at their highest in 2 million years. The world is now warmer than at any time in the past 125,000 years – and will likely get warmer still over the next decade.

“Even in the near term, global warming is more likely than not to reach 1.5C even under the very low greenhouse gas scenario,” the report states.

The authors say that they are optimistic that dramatic changes can be achieved rapidly, pointing to the massive falls in the price of energy made from solar and wind.

They also argue that changes driven by consumers in terms of diet, food waste and switching to low carbon transport can achieve significant cuts in emissions from many sectors.

But the report also acknowledges that in addition to getting to net zero emissions as soon as possible, large scale use of carbon dioxide removal technology will be needed. The scientists say this is a realistic plan to bring the Earth’s temperature back under control, and warming back below 1.5C.

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