A new UN report has issued the most dire warning yet over climate change, saying the world has only about 12 years to limit rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to The Guardian. Warming beyond this point, scientists say, will lead to a catastrophic impact on the world’s climate and economy, which the report also says could take hold as soon as 2040. The speed and scope of the changes necessary have “no documented historic precedent,” according to the report.
Both the 2040 date and the 12-year time limit suggest a much more urgent situation than has been previously thought.
“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. This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC’s research panel.
Though unprecedented, the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report say that the reduction in greenhouse emissions would be both affordable and feasible. Yet they concede they are politically unlikely to occur. They say taxes or prices for carbon emissions as high as $27,000 per ton could be necessary by 2100. Since the Paris agreement, the political climate of the United States, the world’s largest emitter of carbon both historically and per capita, has shifted away from robust climate action, particularly since the 2016 election.
According to the study, the difference between the high end of the Paris targets, at two degrees, and the aspirational target of 1.5, could determine the survival or total eradication of coral reefs, and the risk of droughts, floods, and extreme heat. They estimate that the damage could approach $54 trillion.
The world is already one degree warmer than pre-industrial levels. At the current rate of emissions, warming could approach the 1.5-degree target as soon as 2040, which the report says could in itself bring about disastrous effects.
A total of 91 scientists from 40 different countries worked on the report, examining over 6,000 other studies. Representatives from small island nations had requested an investigation into the effects of a 1.5-degree increase, after it was set as a Paris agreement target. To avoid these effects, emissions would need to be cut 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Renewable energy sources, which currently supply about 20 percent of the world’s electricity, would need to reach 67 percent.