Image copyright AP Image caption “This situation is unsustainable,” said Francesco Filibeck
The world is falling “far short” of its target to keep global warming well below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a United Nations report released on Monday.
And we may need to keep warming below 1.5°C to have a chance of maintaining a global temperature rise below 1.5°C.
This is because acting on climate change will have knock-on effects of climate change that will undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) warns.
According to the report, an average rise of 1.5°C would protect up to three billion people from flooding, droughts and disease by 2100.
However, it finds that the average global temperature is on track to rise 3°C, raising the chances of heatwaves, floods and heatwaves being as severe as they were before the Industrial Revolution.
Flooding could become a near-daily occurrence in cities with large populations, the report says.
The UNEP wants every country to have an annual plan to drive emissions down – and to improve their transport, energy and waste policies so they are easier to use.
“Climate change has become a crisis, hitting our poorest and most vulnerable people and threatening the ability of the global economy to continue to grow,” said UNEP executive director Erik Solheim.
“Failure to act now will hit the poorest the hardest as rising sea levels will make climate change even more severe. Many regions will also experience more droughts, violent weather and floods that will also lead to migration and more conflicts.”
The UN’s Climate Change Secretariat (UNCCS) reported in March that world leaders had agreed a global climate deal with legally binding emissions reductions in a deal signed in December in Paris – although it still has some legally-binding, non-binding pledges.
Image copyright CCF
The UNCCS says there is still a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°C if global emissions come down quickly enough.
“The world is on track to warm up by over 2°C by the end of the century. Reducing this risk to less than 1.5°C requires for the world to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions around the lower end of the 1.5°C warming range,” it said.
Even if the world manages to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C it would still face other climate challenges – including rising seas and a rise in droughts and extreme weather events that would hit farmers, water and food security as well as human health.
While these are global threats, they would not remain within the reach of wealthier countries.
“This situation is unsustainable, and countries have an urgent need to adjust their migration policies, and their economies and societies to respond to climate change,” said Francesco Filibeck, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
“Time is not on their side, and they need to engage at all levels to respond effectively to this threat.”