‘Most important years in history’: Major UN report sounds last-minute climate alarm

(EurActiv, 8 Oct 2018) Warming beyond 1.5C will unleash a frightening set of consequences and only a global transformation, beginning now, will avoid it, according to the latest report from scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). EURACTIV’s media partner Climate Home News reports.

In a major report released on Monday, the UN’s climate science body found limiting warming to 1.5C, compared to 2C, would spare a vast sweep of people and life on earth from devastating impacts.

To hold warming to this limit, the scientists said unequivocally that carbon pollution must fall to ‘net zero’ in around three decades: a huge and immediate transformation, for which governments have shown little inclination so far.

“The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) research into the impacts of warming.

The report from the IPCC is a compilation of existing scientific knowledge, distilled into a 33-page summary presented to governments. If and how policymakers respond to it will decide the future of vulnerable communities around the world.

“I have no doubt that historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs,” the lead climate negotiator for small island states Amjad Abdulla said. “I urge all civilised nations to take responsibility for it by dramatically increasing our efforts to cut the emissions responsible for the crisis.”

Abdulla is from the Maldives. It is estimated that half a billion people in countries like his rely on coral ecosystems for food and tourism. The difference between 1.5C and 2C is the difference between losing 70-90% of coral by 2100 and reefs disappearing completely, the report found.

Small island states were part of a coalition that forced the Paris Agreement to consider both a 1.5C and 2C target. Monday’s report is a response to that dual goal. Science had not clearly defined what would happen at each mark, nor what measures would be necessary to stay at 1.5C.

As the report was finalised, the UN secretary general’s special representative on sustainable energy Rachel Kyte praised those governments. “They had the sense of urgency and moral clarity,” she said, adding that they knew “the lives that would hang in the balance between 2[C] and 1.5[C]”.

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EurActiv, 8 Oct 2018: ‘Most important years in history’: Major UN report sounds last-minute climate alarm