Climate change is speeding up, key warming threshold set to be breached by 2030s

Children in Australia help kick off a historic global day of action seeing young people demand adults move faster to tackle climate change. Photo by the Bangkok Post. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SINGAPORE, Aug 10, 2021, ST. Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying with some impacts, such as sea level rise, now irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, the United Nations’ top climate science body said in a major report released on Monday (Aug 9), The Straits Times reported.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes after a stunning series of extreme heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms in the Northern Hemisphere, which are a taste of what is likely to come as the planet heats up and sea level rise accelerates with ice caps melting.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” the report says.

“The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.”

The report by the IPCC’s Working Group 1 (WG1) represents the work of 234 authors from 66 nations, including Singapore. It analyses the latest developments in climate science, computer climate models and eight years of data on extreme weather since the last WG1 report was published in 2013.

The report is designed to be a guide for climate action by governments.

The message is clear: Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions must be made in the coming decades, to reach net-zero emissions by around 2050 and negative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions after that.

It is already too late to avoid an increase in extremes. What matters now is trying to limit the pace of global warming and the intensity of those extremes.

The more aggressive the switch to a green, low-carbon economy, the safer the future will be.

Yet no matter what happens, it is likely the world will still breach global average warming of 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels initially, a threshold the IPCC says risks triggering more extreme weather that threatens human health, crops and key ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs.

That is because so much CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases have already been pumped into the atmosphere that the world will continue to warm for some time even if pollution stops tomorrow.

‘Code red’

The world has already warmed 1.1 deg C since pre-industrial times. With emissions set to exceed 1.5 deg C in the 2030s, scientists say even more dangerous warming of 2 deg C would soon follow if action to slash emissions is not taken now.

“Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

“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 added: “The internationally agreed threshold of 1.5 deg C is perilously close.” He was referring to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement goals of limiting warming to well below 2 deg C and to aim for 1.5 deg C.

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