World has less than 10 years to stop catastrophic climate warning – United Nations

Only if industrialised nations slash GHGs by half by 2030 and stop adding CO2 by 2050, will the world have a 50% chance to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius

Wildfires in California are directly linked to increased global warming. Photo: Mike Newbry/Unsplash
Wildfires in California are directly linked to increased global warming. Photo: Mike Newbry/Unsplash

Planet Earth will cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next 10 years unless nations make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels, to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously, according to a major new report released on Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above the world’s pre-industrial levels, around “the first half of the 2030s” if humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.

Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.

And Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age. With global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach.

The new IPCC report says that only if industrialized nations join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030, and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050, will the world have a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC said that delays of even a few years would most likely make that goal unattainable, guaranteeing a hotter future. “The pace and scale of what has been done so far and current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change,” said Hoesung Lee, the chair of the climate panel. “We are walking when we should be sprinting.”

The report, which was approved by 195 governments, says that existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure — coal-fired power plants, oil wells, factories, cars and trucks across the globe — will already produce enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet roughly 2 degrees Celsius this century. To keep warming below that level, many of those projects would need to be canceled, retired early or otherwise cleaned up.

“The 1.5 degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said.

The difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees might mean that tens of millions more people worldwide experience life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding.

A 1.5-degree world might still have coral reefs and summer Arctic sea ice, while a 2-degree world most likely would not.

Scientists say that warming will largely halt once humans stop adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, a concept known as “net zero” emissions. How quickly nations reach net zero will determine how hot the planet ultimately becomes.

Both the United States and European Union have set goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, while China has set a 2060 goal and India is aiming for 2070.