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Major IPCC report warns against impending global temperature rise

backontrack

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Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet | Climate change | The Guardian

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in ways “unprecedented” in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, with some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, climate scientists have warned.

Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather.



Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.


The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

World leaders said the stark findings must force new policy measures as a matter of urgency, to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing. Governments from 197 countries will meet this November in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26.

A destroyed house is pictured after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany.

Floods caused major damage in Schuld, near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, in July, with 189 people losing their lives. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images
Each nation is asked to come to Cop26 with fresh plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit global heating to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the ambition of the Paris climate agreement and a goal the IPCC emphasised was still possible, but only just.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, warned: “[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

He called for an end to new coal plants and to new fossil fuel exploration and development, and for governments, investors and businesses to pour all their efforts into a low-carbon future. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” he said.


Boris Johnson, prime minister of the UK, hosts of Cop26, said: “Today’s report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet … I hope today’s report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical Cop26 summit.”

John Kerry, special envoy to US president Joe Biden, said: “The IPCC report underscores the overwhelming urgency of this moment. The world must come together before the ability to limit global warming to 1.5C is out of reach … Glasgow must be a turning point in this crisis.”

Temperatures have now risen by about 1.1C since the period 1850 to 1900, but stabilising the climate at 1.5C was still possible, the IPCC said. That level of heating would still result in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, but would represent a much smaller risk than 2C.

Richard Allan, a professor of climate science at University of Reading, and an IPCC lead author, said each fraction of a degree of warming was crucial. “You are promoting moderate extreme weather events to the premier league of extreme events [with further temperature rises],” he said.

A burned fire engine and fire station in downtown Greenville, California, on 7 August.

A burned fire engine and fire station in downtown Greenville, California, on 7 August. The Dixie fire has ravaged an area larger than Los Angeles. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Civil society groups urged governments to act without delay. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “This is not the first generation of world leaders to be warned by scientists about the gravity of the climate crisis, but they’re the last that can afford to ignore them. The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”

Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF, added: “This is a stark assessment of the frightening future that awaits us if we fail to act. With the world on the brink of irreversible harm, every fraction of a degree of warming matters to limit the dangers.”

Even if the world manages to limit warming to 1.5C, some long-term impacts of warming already in train are likely to be inevitable and irreversible. These include sea level rises, the melting of Arctic ice, and the warming and acidification of the oceans. Drastic reductions in emissions can stave off worse climate change, according to IPCC scientists, but will not return the world to the more moderate weather patterns of the past.


03:55
Climate crisis: what one month of extreme weather looks like – video
Ed Hawkins, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading, and a lead author for the IPCC, said: “We are already experiencing climate change, including more frequent and extreme weather events, and for many of these impacts there is no going back.”

This report is likely to be the last report from the IPCC while there is still time to stay below 1.5C, added Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, and an IPCC lead author. “This report shows the closer we can keep to 1.5C, the more desirable the climate we will be living in, and it shows we can stay within 1.5C but only just – only if we cut emissions in the next decade,” he said. “If we don’t, by the time of the next IPCC report at the end of this decade, 1.5C will be out the window.”

Monday’s report will be followed next year by two further instalments: part two will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis; and the third will detail the potential solutions. Work on the report has been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which delayed publication by some months, and forced scientists to collaborate mainly online and through video conferencing.

All eyes on Glasgow then...incidentally Johnson is still backing new oilfields in the North Sea, but I wonder if he's going to be forced to change tack on that.

The key takeaway from the IPCC report is that it's now very squarely us vs the mass polluters. Even Guterres himself describes the new report as a "death knell" for the fossil fuel industry. There's a global recognition that there HAS to be ambitious policy if we're to turn the course. I truly think this could be the galvanising moment that we so sorely need - seeing western cities like Athens and prosperous states like California in flames will have properly spooked our world leaders - that, and the added punch of the Gulf Stream tipping points we now know we're moving towards. The reaction to this report feels different, and I'm more confident about avoiding 2°C (this century at least) than I have been for a long time, although that confidence is still shaky.

We now have an overwhelming scientific consensus that humanity is taking the Earth to sweltering new extremes, and that this presents an existential threat to civilisation. The thing we need to look out for is denial, sure, but even worse is hopelessness and doomerism. That's the number one thing that slows people down, and makes them feel hopeless. Objectively, we are not hopeless, and we still have power to vote in politicians who will face up to the climate crisis at the ballot box. (It's not scaremongering to be realistic about the scale of the threat here - to say, this is what we know scientifically, here is our to-do list if we fancy surviving. The human cost and ecological cost outweighs the financial cost whatever way you cut it, and the fossil fuel firms also have more money than any of us care to think of. They're also very good at using it to lobby American government officials...)

If you're looking for an antidote to the doom and gloom, then I'd recommend reading up on the work of Michael E Mann, a climate scientist who pioneered the 'hockey stick graph' delineating exponential temperature rise. He's really good at recognising climate pessimism for what it is - a natural reaction to the news and the stakes, but one that we simply have to put to one side emotionally. After all, we're not dead yet, and we don't have to be.

I'm going to log out for a bit, because I know I'm going to be deluged with either howls of despair or "we can't afford this! let's all die instead!" or people telling me it's overexaggerated, or that it's all China actually, or any of the other things people say in order to stop themselves from confronting the facts. But I hope posting this here at least raises some awareness. (I feel like I'm asking for trouble.)
 
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HSTEd

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The Government will not commit the resources necesary to escape this without reductions in the standard of living.

They will do nothing significant for years and then grind the poor into the dirt to make the numbers add up later
 

backontrack

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The Government will not commit the resources necesary to escape this without reductions in the standard of living.

They will do nothing significant for years and then grind the poor into the dirt to make the numbers add up later
Agreed, sadly I think the UK govt will be one of the last nations to commit to real action. The fact that our next general election isn't until 2024, with the opposition looking as likely to win as Sheffield United last season, doesn't help things. And it depends on who replaces Johnson as PM.
 

Gloster

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I am afraid that it is almost certainly too late. It is not that it is technically too late to do something, but that the scale of the measures required are too great for the majority of people to accept. They will go into denial and the politicians will take a short term view in order to win the next election: they won’t do anything that is likely to be unpopular with voters, or with big business or the political cronies that feed them. When it all goes wrong, the really rich will retire to fortresses and leave the rest to turn on each other. I have posted elsewhere that I expected that in a few hundred years the human race will be limited to small tribes living in isolated villages: I now think that that is optimistic.
 

backontrack

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I am afraid that it is almost certainly too late. It is not that it is technically too late to do something, but that the scale of the measures required are too great for the majority of people to accept. They will go into denial and the politicians will take a short term view in order to win the next election: they won’t do anything that is likely to be unpopular with voters, or with big business or the political cronies that feed them. When it all goes wrong, the really rich will retire to fortresses and leave the rest to turn on each other. I have posted elsewhere that I expected that in a few hundred years the human race will be limited to small tribes living in isolated villages: I now think that that is optimistic.
This kind of doomist logic doesn't really help anyone, and speaking as a young person it's not an attitude that we want the older generations to have, it's paralysing and unconstructive. There's a certainly now a wider public acknowledgement of the threat we face; the opponents are louder but fewer. I have faith, shaky faith, that we will intervene, because I think that a significant proportion of people have shifted from denial to doomism - they can shift again. As for our leaders, they're going to really feel the pressure once the pandemic is in our rear mirror. The suprarich lobbyists are going to grip on as long as they can, but there will also be pressure on nations and leaders to 'get there first' and 'win' the climate war.
 

py_megapixel

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To me, it is a no-brainer to cancel almost all planned road building and widening projects. Despite it being proven over alding nd over that they it doesn't solve traffic congestion or make journeys faster in the long term, the government will still pour money into it. Road building is not good for the environment either, especially taking into account the emissions from the vehicles that will travel on it.

The "it's mostly China" attitude really annoys me. Just because we're not the worst doesn't mean we don't need to improve. I think it's quite fun to apply this to other aspects of society and see how ridiculous it sounds - "Yes, you ran over a child on a zebra crossing because you weren't paying attention to the road, but someone else ran over two children, so don't worry, you don't need to improve your driving!"
 

HSTEd

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I am afraid that it is almost certainly too late. It is not that it is technically too late to do something, but that the scale of the measures required are too great for the majority of people to accept. They will go into denial and the politicians will take a short term view in order to win the next election: they won’t do anything that is likely to be unpopular with voters, or with big business or the political cronies that feed them. When it all goes wrong, the really rich will retire to fortresses and leave the rest to turn on each other. I have posted elsewhere that I expected that in a few hundred years the human race will be limited to small tribes living in isolated villages: I now think that that is optimistic.

Even in the worst case scenario the world will likely support a population well into the billions indefinitely.
 

yorksrob

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As a country, the key things we have to sort out are the electricity supply, transport and domestic heating (in order of increasing difficulty).

The forst of these three, the country has made some quite good progress over the last twenty years or so. The second, it's moving in the right direction (at least for cars) but slowly. Railway electrification is a no-brainer.

The third's going to be a real issue though.
 
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Domh245

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The "it's mostly China" attitude really annoys me. Just because we're not the worst doesn't mean we don't need to improve. I think it's quite fun to apply this to other aspects of society and see how ridiculous it sounds - "Yes, you ran over a child on a zebra crossing because you weren't paying attention to the road, but someone else ran over two children, so don't worry, you don't need to improve your driving!"

It's not a justification for doing nothing, but it is an important thing to consider. It's all well and good if the UK reduces annual emissions to zero, but when China produces as much CO2 in a month as we do in two years, then obviously our own impact will be small. It's one planet, and it requires all countries to play along

As a country, the key things we have to sort out are the electricity supply, transport and domestic heating (in order of increasing difficulty).

If you were targeting it by amount of emissions, it'd be transport then electricity then heating, but the middle is key to removing CO2 from the other two!
 

yorksrob

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If you were targeting it by amount of emissions, it'd be transport then electricity then heating, but the middle is key to removing CO2 from the other two!

It is, but if they don't pull off replacing methane gas with hydrogen, heat pumps are going to take a lot of getting used to.
 

HSTEd

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It is, but if they don't pull off replacing methane gas with hydrogen, heat pumps are going to take a lot of getting used to.

My own work in this field indicates that even resorting to storage heaters will only increase carbon budget overshoot by about a gigaton of CO2 in the UK, assuming a zero carbon generator installation programme that is running as fast as possible

Thats sounds like a lot, but compared to the huge amounts of carbon dioxide capture that is being talked about these days, or even that necessary to provide carbon for synthetic kerosene for aviation and plastics, it is peanuts.

All that matters is zero carbon generation expands as fast as possible, almost any downstream technologies are acceptable if that can be achieved.
 
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deltic

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Agreed, sadly I think the UK govt will be one of the last nations to commit to real action. The fact that our next general election isn't until 2024, with the opposition looking as likely to win as Sheffield United last season, doesn't help things. And it depends on who replaces Johnson as PM.
UK has performed better than many other nations - partly by chance but also by its various policies supporting wind generation for example. We could do a lot more but to say we will be one of the last to commit to real action is highly exaggerated
 

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