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Montevideo, September 24th 2023 - 09:51 UTC



UN climate change report heralds “unprecedented” disasters

Tuesday, August 10th 2021 - 08:30 UTC
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 “This report must put an end to coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said “This report must put an end to coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said

A new study released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) foresee the planet's temperature would reach +1.5 ºC compàred to pre-industrial levels by the year 2030, which is ten years earlier than forecast in 2018.

The United Nations experts warned that such a scenario could generate “unprecedented” disaster risks with “irreversible consequences” for humanity, like rising sea levels, heat waves, floods and other extreme events.

Less than three months before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, United Kingdom, experts from the IPCC, the UN body that studies climate, envision five emission scenarios, from the most optimistic to the most pessimistic. In all of them, the planet's temperature would reach the threshold of +1.5 ºC with respect to pre-industrial levels by 2030, ten years earlier than expected.

Before 2050 this threshold may even reach +2 ºC if emissions are not drastically reduced. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit warming to below +2 ° C, or +1.5 ° C if possible.

According to the latest IPCC assessment, the planet has already reached +1.1 ºC and is beginning to see its consequences: fires that devastate the western United States, Greece or Turkey, floods in Germany or China, 50 ºC temperatures in Canada....

“If you think this is serious, remember that what we see now is only the first salvo,” says Kristina Dahl of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Specialists believe some impacts of climate change are “irreversible”, such as the rise in sea level.

Even limiting warming to +1.5 ºC, heat waves, floods and other extreme events will increase in an “unprecedented” way both in their magnitude, frequency, location or time of year in which they occur, the IPCC warned.

“This report should give chills to anyone who reads it. It shows where we are and where we are going with climate change - into a hole we continue to dig,” said climatologist Dave Reay.

“Stabilizing the climate will require a strong, rapid and sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to achieve carbon neutrality,” insisted Panmao Zhai, co-chair of the group of experts who drafted the first part of the IPCC report.

The second part, scheduled for February 2022, will show the impact of these changes and how life on Earth will be irretrievably transformed in 30 years, or perhaps less.

The third part will address possible solutions and is expected in March. “This report must put an end to coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” claimed the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.

Faced with the need to halve emissions by 2030 to meet +1.5 ° C, all eyes are on the world leaders' summit in Glasgow in November. “There is no time to wait, no room for excuses,” Guterres insisted.

For now, only half of governments have revised their initial emission reduction targets. The commitments made after the 2015 Paris Agreement would lead to an increase of +3 ° C, provided it is respected, because the current rate leads to +4 ºC or +5 ºC.

According to the IPCC's best scenario, warming could return to the +1.5 ° C threshold if emissions are drastically reduced and more CO2 is absorbed than is emitted. But the techniques that allow large-scale recovery of CO2 in the atmosphere are still being investigated, notes the IPCC.

The report indicates that some consequences are already “irreversible.” The melting of the poles will cause the level of the oceans to continue to rise for “centuries, or millennia.” The sea, which has already grown 20 centimeters since 1900, could still advance another half meter by 2100 even if the warming is maintained at +2 ºC.

“It seems distant, but millions of children already born will still live in the 22nd century,” said Jonathan Bamber, author of the report. For the first time, the IPCC does not rule out the arrival of “tipping points”, unlikely irreversible events but of dramatic impact, such as the melting of the Antarctic ice cap or the death of the Amazon rainforest.

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