The world could hit two degrees Celsius of warming – the point at which many scientists believe climate change will become dangerous – as early as 2050, a group of leading experts has warned in a report called The Truth About Climate Change.
They said many people seemed to think of global warming as “abstract, distant and even controversial”. But the planet is now heating up “much faster” than anticipated. It means the majority of people alive today will experience what it is like to live on a dangerously overheated planet. Droughts, floods, wildfires and storms are all set to increase as the world warms, threatening crops and causing the extinction of species. Weather-related events due to climate change have doubled in number since 1990.
At the Paris Climate Summit last year, world leaders agreed to try to limit global warming to as close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels as possible – amid concerns the 2C target may not be safe enough. In the same year the level of warming reached 1C after an astonishing 0.15C rise in just three years. The new report warned the 1.5C target had “almost certainly already been missed”. Even if all the pledges to cut emissions made by countries at Paris are fulfilled, the average temperature is set to reach that level in the early 2030s and then 2C by 2050, they said.
Sir Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and one of the authors of the report, a chemist who has worked for Nasa, the World Bank, the US president and now at the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, said: “Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated… what is needed is a doubling or tripling of efforts.”
the pledges made at Paris would require wealthy countries to give a total of $100bn a year – as promised at the summit – to poor countries to help them transition to a zero-carbon economy.
“About 80 per cent of the pledges are subject to the condition that financial and technological support is available from developed countries,” Professor Watson said. “These conditions may not be met, which means that these pledges may not be realized.” The UK has already indicated its share of this total will come from the foreign aid budget, meaning poor countries will actually not get any more cash than they do at present. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. As the number of weather-related events due to climate change continues to rise, their impact on water resources, food production, human health, services and infrastructure in urban and rural areas, among other sectors, will be more frequent and intense.
Mark Lynas, in his award-winning book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, described the report’s findings as “extremely worrying”.
“If we hit 2C by 2050 then we will be well on the way to a really terrifying 3C-plus scenario by the end of the century,” Mr Lynas said. “The world’s ice-caps will be in full-scale meltdown, and large areas of what are now breadbaskets could become deserts, threatening serious global food shortages… And we would be condemning our children and grandchildren to multi-metre sea level rise, and the eventual evacuation of major coastal cities.”