Written by By Laurent Delpierre and Matthew Sinclair, CNN Paris, France
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of a “high confidence” that this year will set records for the hottest temperatures and could set “new milestones” for climate change.
The IPCC special report also features “especially striking and consistent findings” about how more extreme heat could affect food production, the viability of plants and animals and the risks they pose to human health, it says.
The study, released late Thursday, includes a summary of a report from the group’s 2,000-member expert panel (IPCC). It says global warming is “unequivocal” and points to increases in temperatures, sea level rise and extreme heat events as consequences.
“For the first time, we are able to state that the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is no longer a long shot, it is now a virtual certainty,” said IPCC lead author Don Wuebbles.
“Today’s warning is stark and should send a clear signal to political leaders around the world to address this issue now,” he said.
The report also discusses the danger of the world melting under rising temperatures and highlighted the long-term impacts of climate change, such as “seismic events and risks to agriculture.”
Is the IPCC’s 1.5 degree goal possible?
The IPCC’s conclusions prompted immediate reaction from governments.
“The findings show us why we need to have deep cuts in emissions right now,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a statement, highlighting the “challenges to clean energy investment and global competitiveness, threats to food security and food safety.”
“The report should lay the groundwork for negotiations toward a global climate agreement in Katowice next month. We know we need to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts,” she said.
European Union Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete added: “If we are serious about avoiding a 2C temperature rise by the end of the century, the world has to make historic cuts in emissions.”
Environmentalists also welcomed the findings.
“The report shows once again that climate science is more clear and convincing than ever,” said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International President Nathan Ruser.
“Governments around the world should start preparing for the impacts of climate change, from rising seas to humanitarian crisis.”
The report is based on projections made from the latest research of 1,400 climate scientists and institutions from more than 60 countries, IPCC said.
“Every member of the IPCC is involved in reviewing and commenting on this report, which is the most comprehensive scientific survey ever undertaken on the impacts of climate change,” Wuebbles said.
The report also looks at how uncertainties could impact the findings, and says that there is “little evidence” that global warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will have a significant impact on human health.
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are responsible for increasing temperatures on Earth, which have been linked to extreme weather events, such as bleaching coral reefs and shrinking glaciers.
At the same time, humans have been making significant contributions to global emissions through the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas.
Public pressure on governments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and cap global warming has led the world’s leading governments to set ambitions of keeping global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.
According to the IPCC, preventing a rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century would have significant implications for nature and human health and may lead to food security issues.
“This report shows the importance of focusing international effort and political will on climate action,” Ruser said.