Dire new UN warning on climate change: Earth has until 2030 to stem catastrophic warming

The photo shows where parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are turning white in an effect known as bleaching. Scientists believe bleaching occurs when ocean temperatures become too warm. Bleaching eventually kills the reef. Photo: Wikicommons

INCHEON, South Korea — A new report on climate change from the United Nations' scientific panel finds the world must decrease greenhouse gas emissions and carbon monoxide at a more accelerated rate than previously thought to avoid a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), convened in 1988 to help advise world leaders on policies related to climate change, released the report by 91 scientists from 40 counties on Monday.

"One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree Celsius of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I said in a statement.

The report said, without a concerted effort to limit the rising temperatures, the planet will reach the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2030. If that happens, the world could see a mass die-off of coral reefs, worsening water and food shortages and increased wildfires and droughts.

Just to limit the global warming already well underway to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities,” the report said.

"Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes," Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III said.

“Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching 'net zero' around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air,” according to the report.

Techniques for removing CO2 from the air to try and reduce the global temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius are unproven, though. It's not even clear that it could be done on a mass scale.

The IPCC report is the first in a series assessing the impact of a 1.5 and 2-degree Celsius temperature increase. The next reports will focus on the impact of global warming on the ocean and cryosphere followed by one on the impact of land use.

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