It’s the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures.
Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C says the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C, BBC News reports.
Keeping to the preferred target of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
It will be hugely expensive – but the window of opportunity remains open.
After three years of research and a week of haggling between scientists and government officials at a meeting in South Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C.
What’s the one big takeaway?
“Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW, IDIOTS,’ but they need to say that with facts and numbers,” said Kaisa Kosonen, of Greenpeace, who was an observer at the negotiations. “And they have.”
The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below two degrees this century, then the changes we would experience would be manageable.
Even then, we will still need machines, trees and plants to capture carbon from the air that we can then store deep underground – forever.
What can I do?
The report says there must be rapid and significant changes in four big global systems:
- energy • land use • cities • industry
But it adds that the world cannot meet its target without changes by individuals, urging people to:
- buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter and more locally sourced seasonal food – and throw less of it away
- drive electric cars but walk or cycle short distances
- take trains and buses instead of planes
- use videoconferencing instead of business travel
- use a washing line instead of a tumble dryer
- insulate homes
- demand low carbon in every consumer product
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference, said Dr Debra Roberts, the IPCC’s other co-chair.
“That’s a very empowering message for the individual,” she said. “This is not about remote science; it is about where we live and work, and it gives us a cue on how we might be able to contribute to that massive change, because everyone is going to have to be involved.”
“You might say you don’t have control over land use, but you do have control over what you eat and that determines land use.
“We can choose the way we move in cities and if we don’t have access to public transport – make sure you are electing politicians who provide options around public transport.”