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Key Global Warming Target Slipping Out of Reach, UN Scientists Warn: Should U.S. Take Action?

by Axios | 10.8.18

Global warming can still be held to 1.5°C relative to preindustrial levels, but only if countries take "unprecedented" steps to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and change how we live, according to a landmark science report released Sunday night by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Why it matters: Global warming will have far more severe consequences if temperatures are allowed to creep past 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, of warming, scientists concluded. They noted that there are already deadly impacts from the 1°C, or 1.8°F, of warming so far — including more severe and longer lasting heat waves, more heavy precipitation events, and ocean warming that is killing many of the planet's coral reefs.

The special report was requested by world governments in 2018, following the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement. That agreement calls for countries to limit global warming to "well below 2°C" of warming, relative to preindustrial levels, with an aspirational target of 1.5°C of warming.

A team of 91 scientists from around the world reviewed over 6,000 studies and 42,000 peer review comments to produce this report.

The report found that the effects of global warming are already being felt around the world, particularly by poor and vulnerable populations, and that these impacts will only grow. “The lower we can keep global warming, the less the impacts will be," IPCC co-author Natalie Mahowald told reporters on Sunday.

  • For nearly every global warming impact, from droughts to sea level rise, the report finds that adhering to just 1.5°C of warming would make a major, concrete difference for millions of people and hundreds, if not thousands, of species.

Since the last major IPCC assessment in 2014, it's become clearer that global carbon emissions have not yet made 1.5°C of warming inevitable. However, if present emissions trends continue, that target will likely be hit around 2040, the report states.

Threat level: The differences in impacts between 1.5°C of warming and 2°C, or 3.6°F, of warming are significant, the report found:

  • There would be less of a risk for irreversible changes, including ecosystem losses and the destabilization of parts of Greenland and Antarctica, at 1.5°C of warming compared to 2°C.
  • By 2100, sea level rise is expected to be about .1 meter, or 4 inches, lower under the lower global warming amount compared to a 2-degree scenario. That may sound small, but the report states this translates to 10 million fewer people exposed to flood risks, based on 2010 population levels.
  • Huge amounts of carbon and methane are locked up in frozen soil in the Arctic, which is thawing as temperatures increase. Limiting warming to 1.5°C, as compared to 2°C, would prevent 1.5 to 2.5 million square kilometers of permafrost from thawing, the report finds.
  • The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees.

Yes, but: Meeting the 1.5-degree target would require a Herculean effort to transform how we generate and use energy, invent new ways to store carbon, slash non-carbon greenhouse gases like methane and drastically scale up renewable energy sources.

The report presents several energy "pathways," or scenarios, in which the climate would not warm by much more than 1.5 degrees through the year 2100.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions would need to be cut by about 45% by 2030, relative to 2010 levels.
  • Emissions would need to decline to net zero in 2050, and in some scenarios be negative by the year 2100.
  • Some of these scenarios require a role for cutting-edge carbon sequestration technologies that are currently in their infancy, including direct air capture.

The report will now inform the next round of UN climate talks in Poland in December.

"The message is, over to governments at this stage, we've told you the scientific facts, the evidence, the costs. It is up to the governments now to decide what to do with it."

— Jim Skea, climate scientist and co-chair of IPCC Working Group III.

Go deeper: UN report: Massive changes needed to stem warmingThe stark reality of the IPCC's 1.5-degree climate report

Andrew Freedman

Photo: Zakir Chowdhury/Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Axios

Written by Axios

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(94)
  • Alex
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Senators, we need to protect our world. Not the US alone, the world. Get us back into the climate agreement and fund research for global warming!!!!

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  • David
    Voted No
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Regardless of what you believe, the political reality is that the developing nations, who account for 80% of the world’s emissions are not going to dial back their economic progress because a bunch of wealthy western liberals demand it. Nothing that the west does will have any meaningful impact on worldwide emissions.

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  • Chickie
    10/08/2018
    ···

    The summary of the scientific studies regarding the point of no return on climate change is breathing down the necks globally of all the world governments. #45 continues to favor big business by rescinding laws that protected our lands, air, water, and wildlife. #45 cannot be counted on to understand, much less take the helm of this intense situation. However, our nation has someone who understands the seriousness of the situation in VP Al Gore. He always respected the scientific community and understands the dire situation of Global Warming. Perhaps VP Gore can represent the majority of Americans that realize the importance of acting on the very real effects of Global Warming? There is only a sliver of hope left to address the ever lessening timetable. If we don’t do something, the time when the world was healthy will be left to history.

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  • Poli.Sci
    Voted Maybe
    10/08/2018
    ···

    You cannot say that this is a science project because scientists have been getting it wrong that one of the largest super volcanoes sitting under our country has been predicted to explode nearly 25 years ago if not longer. Global warming is a political tool that has been created by the Democrat Presidential nominee of 2000 and made a PowerPoint because he needed a new cash flow. The Earth naturally warms and cools, that’s why when it cools to regulate the Earth temperature and dumps tons of snow and ice on itself, we call it an Ice Age. This has been happening far longer than humans have biologically been around l’m afraid to say. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but it amazes me that the world population has been hoodwinked into the same con that had also predicted the end of the world in 2013.

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  • burrkitty
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    I have no expectations for the current clusterfø¢k in DC. Right now the thing we must do is VOTE OUT ALL REPUBLICANS. We can’t address the problem until we have a government that listens to us.

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  • Andy1
    10/08/2018
    ···

    The point in time when desperate radical measures must be taken is drawing closer. Soon there will be little choice left than violently saving the the world from disastrous control of the gop. Polite, civil discourse has closed.

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  • operaman
    Voted No
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Take action! The UN actually wants the US wallet.

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  • Daniel
    Voted Maybe
    10/09/2018
    ···

    Why are we when China, India and others have more issues with emissions and we have to play mommy.

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Since the US is only 5% of world population and The US alone contributes 25% of the world’s pollution and is responsible for all of the sweatshops and other manufacturing in China, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Philippines, and many other third world nations, we should be taking the lead to have a ZERO pollution contribution in the world. Part of the reason it is so inexpensive to produce products in other nations, is because there are little to know environmental laws, which attributes to more profit for Greedy American Capitalists.

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  • SamL
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    It is important to take action. We have only one earth and we must take care of it.

    Like (7)
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  • Steve
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    We need aggressive action to reduce pollution and stem climate change as quickly as possible. Please create, endorse, and sponsor any legislation to curb climate change: increasing mileage standards for vehicles, implementing a carbon tax, incentivizing clean and renewable energy farms, and fully funding public schools so the coming generation will have the knowledge and skills to make a meaningful difference and positive impact on our world.

    Like (7)
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  • TrulyTexan
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    We should take steps to stop the decline. But we won’t as long as politicians are bought and paid for by the oil industry. Vote them out.

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  • ConservativeGuy
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Let’s get rid of cars in the Bay Area. Let’s refuse to accept coal-generated electricity as well. That ought to help.

    Like (5)
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  • Ochoninja
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    No brainer our ignorant president doesn’t understand and doesn’t listen to advice and deplorable congress just caters to them and do nothing about unconstitutional acts just as deplorable as his ignorant illiterate followers

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  • Brian
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Absolute disgust at the trump administration and any republicans that don’t believe in climate change , impeach

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  • JamieD
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Yes yes yes a million times yes we need to take more action on climate change. About 88 percent of the Countable users agree, and a lot of Americans agree more must be done. It’s only politicians who don’t. Work for us, work for your own futures. Protect this planet.

    Like (4)
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  • Walter
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Rather than barking at the moon, endangered nations should be taking measures to cope with the change. The IPCC is dancing to the tune of the globalist bankers who stand to make increasing fortunes from the carbon suppression/ trading scam.

    Like (4)
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  • ManfromNebraska
    Voted No
    10/08/2018
    ···

    More fake science/news. We only have a small sampling of weather to compare to. As far as we know the temperature has always cycled up and down. God isn’t done with His work here on earth. this is just another socialist way to control government and people.

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  • TheNail
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Special interests, corporate lobbyists and bought politicians are interfering with the ability of Science to inform policy, therefore threatening ALL of us with natural disasters beyond the scope of our imagination

    Like (3)
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  • Elizabeth
    Voted Yes
    10/09/2018
    ···

    How is this even a question? Our survival depends on fighting climate change. What are the plans to combat this at the local and state level? My state, Louisiana, is one of the most at risk, but is woefully behind the curve when it comes to stemming pollution and creating sustainable infrastructure that curbs energy consumption and emissions. We need focused action to happen now if we plan to survive!

    Like (3)
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  • Judith
    Voted Yes
    10/08/2018
    ···

    Of course we should take action. The first action might be to get rid of Trump and his EPA Chief.

    Like (3)
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