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article imageHumans need to get back on track to avoid warming past 1.5C

By Karen Graham     Sep 27, 2018 in Environment
The author of a key UN climate report coming out on October 8 says limiting temperature rise would require enormous, immediate transformation in human activity.
Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which will be unveiled in South Korea next month says the world’s governments are “nowhere near on track” to meet their commitments to keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The report has a lengthy title to go along with its importance: The report, whose full name is "Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty," has being prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC Working Groups.
Just a few days ago, UN secretary-general António Guterres yet again, tried to shake the world's leaders out of their complacency, saying: "Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change."
Xcel Energy s High Bridge Generating Station is a natural gas plant that s helping us reduce our car...
Xcel Energy's High Bridge Generating Station is a natural gas plant that's helping us reduce our carbon emissions.
Xcel Energy
Now that is a serious statement. And it goes hand-in-hand with what the 1.5C report will be telling the world what will happen if we breach that 1.5C point. And it will take a massive international effort to immediately change the way we generate electricity, use transportation and grow food. According to The Guardian, the 1.5C report will outline just how remote this possibility is.
Shindell said, “While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”
The World Bank's chief executive says a carbon tax on emissions is necessary to fight global wa...
The World Bank's chief executive says a carbon tax on emissions is necessary to fight global warming
SHAMMI MEHRA, AFP
Net zero carbon emissions
While Shindell would not reveal the exact details of the IPCC report, he did say the world needs to understand that a huge drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along with an immediate phase-out of fossil fuels, particularly coal, is needed, along with further deployment of solar and wind energy and the eradication of emissions from cars, trucks, and airplanes.
Basically, the report will make the case for net zero carbon emissions, and this is something we all know is needed if we are to survive. The report also makes a case for technologies on a global-scale to capture emissions at the source and bury them in the ground or remove carbon directly from the air.
“The penetration rate of new technology historically takes a long time,” Shindell said. “It’s not simple to change these things. There aren’t good examples in history of such rapid, far-reaching transitions.”
The existence of island nations like the Maldives is at risk from rising sea levels
The existence of island nations like the Maldives is at risk from rising sea levels
AFP/File
Jacqueline Spence, Jamaica's climate change focal point for the IPCC says the report is a "very big deal," reports the Jamaica Gleaner. "This is the document that will basically tell us why all the islands, for years, have been asking that we restrict the warming to 1.5C. This document is coming with the evidence of what 1.5C versus what 2.0C degrees means - and the difference is huge."
Can the world's countries do this?
The UK's Huffington Post asks this very question, noting that France, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Iceland, and Costa Rica have already set themselves targets to get to zero net carbon emissions by the middle of the century – and the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is already carbon-negative.
Viridor s 24 MW energy-from-waste plant in Oxforshire. UK. The Ardley Energy Recovery Facility (ERF)...
Viridor's 24 MW energy-from-waste plant in Oxforshire. UK. The Ardley Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) can process 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste into renewable energy. The plant has a capacity of 26MW – enough electricity to power 38,000 homes.
Jeroen Komen (CC BY-SA 2.0)
So, in order to stabilize climate change, CO2 emissions need to fall to zero. That's a tough one for all of us to wrap our minds around. But we can limit GHG emissions and strive for zero net carbon emissions. And we have seen this already happening around the world.
The United Kingdom cut emissions by more than 40 percent since 1990 while posting 70 percent economic growth. In July this year, the California Air Resources Board announced greenhouse gas emissions dropped to 429.4 million metric tons in 2016, below the target of 431 metric tons set for 2020. The total in 2015 was 441.4 million metric tons.
How do we save our planet?
Everyone says we have to rely on technology to help us save our planet. But saving the planet actually starts with each and every one of us. This year, the world's focus has been on plastic pollution, not only in our oceans but in our use of throw-away plastic bags and straws.
The EU wants much stricter emissions standards
The EU wants much stricter emissions standards
MARCO BERTORELLO, AFP
Again, California, a leader on climate change policies, has banned the use of plastic straws, effective the first of the year.
And the state refuses to go along with President Trump's wanting to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement and his rollback of environmental laws, including vehicle emissions.
And Trump again touted the use of "clean coal" at his keynote UN speech this week, pitting himself against the rest of the world.
“It’s a lot more difficult without the US as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s environment minister, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the US isn’t there.”
“The 1.5C target is difficult, but it’s possible. The next four to 12 years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead. The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate. To reach the goals of the Paris agreement we need large structural changes," Elvestuen told the Guardian.
More about IPCC report, Global warming, 15C report, climate change denial, Fossil fuels
 
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