From fires in North America to floods across Asia, many societies have in the last 12 months begun to experience more severe impacts attributable to human-induced climate change. Although predicted by scientists, some of these impacts have come earlier than expected. Published in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark special report provided an unequivocal warning of the negative impacts of allowing global average temperature increase to go beyond 1.5°C (2.7°F).
Humanity is experiencing the warmest average temperature on Earth since the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago, an increase by 1°C since the start of the industrial revolution. In 2018, global carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are projected to reach a new record high of about 41.5 billion tons per year. Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing the global average temperature, causing ocean acidification, and perturbing the climate system through, for instance, changed rainfall patterns. Climate change is leading to observed increases in economic losses and human suffering, by displacing vulnerable populations and deepening existing inequalities.
In an effort to mitigate climate change and limit warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F), each country party to the UNFCCC has set a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), or national greenhouse gas reduction target. However, the emission reductions pledged under the NDCs are insufficient for the world to limit warming to well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C 4 . More ambitious NDCs and stronger mitigation action until 2030 is needed to keep the 1.5°C target in reach.
Limiting the temperature increase to less than 1.5°C will require greenhouse gas emissions to approximately halve by 2030, according to the IPCC - a Herculean task. The world is far from this trajectory. However, this trajectory is still achievable: solutions exist to halve emissions globally. Furthermore, limiting emissions will also benefit other areas of society, by creating new employment opportunities, improving health, and increasing energy and food security. As nations meet in Poland for the 24th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, this report synthesizes recent key insights from science with focus on those published in 2017-2018. The report emphasizes the urgency to act now and summarizes what we need to know to navigate the transformation to low-carbon societies.
Last changed: Jan 10 2019 at 5:17 AM