Worse climate change in the offing

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The prospect of the Earth overheating dangerously has come closer, with scientists warning that worse climate change will soon affect the planet.

By Alex Kirby

BONN, 13 November, 2017 – The world has been given a stark warning by some of its leading scientists: there is much worse climate change on the way.

The UN climate summit meeting here has been told: “There is no room for complacency. Climate change is here. It is dangerous. And it is about to get much worse.

“In the last two years evidence has accumulated that we are now on a collision course with tipping points in the Earth system”, said Professor Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and chair of the Earth League.

The warning came as he introduced a report at the meeting, known as COP 23, which had been prepared by the League with Future Earth. The two are networks of global sustainability scientists, and their report, The 10 Science ‘Must Knows’ on Climate Change, summarises recent Earth-system science and economic research.

“The news that emissions are rising after the three-year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind. Pushing Earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning”

As global temperatures climb higher Earth is approaching tipping points that threaten human security, the report says. It is published on the same day as another report says global carbon emissions are projected to rise in 2017 after three stable years.

Dr. Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth, said: “The news that emissions are rising after the three-year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind. Pushing Earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning. Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050.”

Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and a member of the Earth League. He said: “Some crucial climate-change facts tend to get lost in the noise of daily deliberations – even at an event such as the UN climate summit.

“So it is important to remind everyone of the very reason why tens of thousands of people are meeting in Bonn: unprecedented risk to humanity due to global warming, as revealed by science.

Threatened stability

“This must be the starting point for re-thinking what in the past 70 years has become our culture of short-term convenience and consumption, a culture which eventually comes at the cost of the well-being of present and future generations across the world.”

The 10 Must Knows report says the Earth’s climate has been remarkably stable since before the dawn of civilisation, but this stability is now at risk. Crossing the critical “tipping points” the planet is now approaching may mean abrupt and possibly irreversible shifts in the workings of the Arctic, Amazon, and other parts of the globe.

The record-breaking 2017 Atlantic hurricane season offers a glimpse of the increased risks of extreme weather which may lie ahead. Examples include severe flooding, heat waves and droughts.The oceans too are changing fast, with accelerating sea-level rise and acidification.

The economic costs of climate change are already being felt, and some of the world’s poorest nations are bearing the heaviest burden. Climate change will have a profound impact on human health by placing new pressures on food and water security in nations around the world.

Need for speed

It is likely to intensify migration, civil unrest and even conflict. In 2015, more than 19 million people globally were displaced by natural disasters and extreme weather, and climate change will probably cause that number to grow.

The world must act fast. If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the remaining carbon budget to reduce the risk of exceeding the internationally-agreed 2°C temperature rise target will be exhausted in around 20 years. Global emissions need to halve every decade.

A fossil fuel-free society is economically attractive: renewable energy increasingly competes with fossil fuels. The estimated costs of inaction range from 2-10% of GDP by 2100 by some estimates, to a fall in projected global output by 23% in 2100 in others.

Even if the world meets the Paris Agreement targets, communities across the globe will still need to build resilience and adapt to the changes already under way. – Climate News Network

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