Climate change report urges immediate action

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A new United Nations report warns of the unprecedented changes needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The U.N. group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shared the Nobel peace prize with Al Gore in 2007 for its work to share information about climate change.

A stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change calls on individuals, as well as governments, to take action to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.

But, according to the report, making these changes would also bring benefits as limiting warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C would reduce the impacts of rising sea levels, lower the likelihood of an ice-free Arctic in summer, and limit coral-reef decline alongside many other negative consequences of increased temperatures.

"Accordingly, the world would witness greater sea level rise, increased precipitation and higher frequency of droughts and floods, hotter days and heatwaves, more intense tropical cyclones, and increased ocean acidification and salinity".

Some of the actions that would be required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius are already underway around the world.

Increased droughts and poverty brought on by the atmosphere's temperature climbing up to 1.5 degrees Celsius, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.

Even in the best-case scenario, where global warming is capped at 1.5 °C by the end of the century, its effects will most likely be devastating.

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The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require "rapid and far-reaching" transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

To contain warming at 1.5C, manmade global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would need to fall by about 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach "net zero" by mid-century.

The study was urgent because CO2, the main greenhouse gas, reached record levels in the atmosphere a year ago, and current pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement would lead to warming of about 3 deg C. "We must reduce emissions as quickly as possible to keep 1.5 deg C of warming within reach", said Mr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

"It's a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now", Debra Roberts, cochair of a working group on the impacts of climate change, tells The Guardian.

But those past predictions appear to have been far too conservative (a common critique of IPCC reports in general).

Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change. In the Paris accord, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C.

Campaigns Manager Gail Wilson said: "Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet and everyone that lives here". If the world were to cease all carbon-emitting activities tomorrow, the carbon already pumped into the air would still guarantee a few extra decades of warming.

Released Sunday, the report warned that the world is rapidly running out of time to scale back greenhouse gas emissions before catastrophic planetary changes occur.