EARTH is now under dire threat from climate change as scientists warn we’re on track to miss the 1.5C limit – but what does that mean?
It means we’re now at risk of widespread flooding, devastating tsunamis, brutal heatwaves and much more.
This limit of 1.5C global temperature rise in modern times was set to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
But a major new UN report warns that this target will be totally missed unless world leaders take urgent and drastic action.
The report warns that we could hit the 1.5C target in just 20 years.
And says that we’re even on track to eventually miss the 2C warming limit, agreed as part of the International Paris Climate Treaty.
UN Secretary General Antonio Tuerres described the report as “a code red for humanity”.
He went on: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.
“But as today’s report makes clear, there’s no time for delay and no room for excuses.”
The devastating verdict by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes as wildfires rage across the USA, Greece and Turkey.
World leaders and businesses are now tasked with slashing greenhouse gas emissions across the board.
The temperature limits are set to avoid the very worst consequences of climate change.
Some countries are under more pressure to act than others – including India, as well as China, which is estimated as emitting 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
“Unless China decarbonises, we’re not going to beat climate change,” said Professor David Tyfield, of the Lancaster Environment Centre, speaking to the BBC.
China’s leader President Xi Jinping is now aiming to reach peak emissions by 2030 – which will be essential to avoiding catastrophe.
Runaway climate – what does it mean?
Scientists have long feared a “runaway effect” where changes snowball and cause irreversible long-term damage to Earth’s climate.
Melting polar ice caps risk causing sea level rise, which could make huge chunks of populated coastline uninhabitable.
And rising temperatures could become unbearable in some of the hottest regions of the world, potentially forcing mass migrations due to climate change.
The report noted that global surface temperature is currently 1.09C higher between 2011 and 2020 than from 1850 to 1900.
And the UN now fears that we’ll hit 1.5C by around 2040 – a devastating milestone.
According to the report, human influence is “very likely” to be the main cause of glacial retreat – a certainty of 90%.
Rising sea levels – what’s the problem?
Here’s what you need to know…
- The global sea level has been gradually rising over the past century
- Sea levels rise due to two main reasons
- The first is thermal expansion – as water gets warmer, it expands
- The second is melting ice on land, adding fresh water into seas
- This has a cyclical effect, because melting ice also warms up the planet (and oceans), causing more even ice to melt and boosting thermal expansion
- It’s currently rising at a rate of around 0.3cm per year
- The sea is huge, so that might sound harmless
- But rising sea levels can have a devastating effect over time
- Low-lying coastal areas can disappear completely, even putting areas of the UK at risk
- It can also mean sea storms and tsunamis can have a more devastating effect, reaching further in-land than they would have previously
- There’s also an increased risk of flooding
Eco disaster – what will actually happen ?
The report warned that sea levels could rise by up to two metres by the end of the century.
Worse still, we could see sea level rises of up to 5 metres by 2150 – which would be a total catastrophe for millions of people.
Rising sea levels not only submerge land permanently, but also create increased risk of temporary flooding events.
Scientists previously issued a warning about the risk of “devastating tsunamis” caused by climate change.
Sea storms and tsunamis could intensify and reach further in-land than they would have previously.
Oceans are also on track to become more acidic, wreaking havoc on underwater ecosystems.
And that the Arctic will be nearly ice-free at least once by 2050.
The report also warned that the past five years were the hottest on record since 1850.
And that heatwaves have become more frequent and intense since the 1950s.
Scientists are now hoping that the COP26 climate summit later this year will give world leaders an opportunity to kickstart plans to stave off catastrophe.
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In other news, a quarter of the world’s land could become a “desert” if global warming reaches 2C above pre-industrial levels, research warns.
One of the world’s best-known mountains is cracking due to climate change, say scientists.
And, European colonisers massacred so many natives in the Americas that it cooled the planet.
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