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Fossil fuels pushing earth closer to tipping points, scientists warn

By Vishal Gulati
Bonn, Nov 13 (IANS) Global emissions from fossil fuels and industry are pushing the earth closer to a tipping points, scientists have warned. They say there is noticeable climate change and i’s still about to get much worse with a future of severe flooding, heat waves and droughts.

Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050 and there is a mechanism to transition to a low carbon world. For this, a strong political is required.

“There is no room for complacency. Climate change is here. It is dangerous. And it is about to get much worse,” Stockholm Resilience Centre Executive Director Johan Rockstrom said in this German city.

“In the last two years, evidence has accumulated that we are now on a collision course with tipping points in the earth’s system,” said Rockstrom, who is the Chair of the Earth League, an international network of scientists that co-produced a report, underscoring the need for rapid action.

The report, “The 10 Science ‘Must Knows’ on Climate Chang”, was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa on the sidelines of UN climate change negotiations (COP-23) in Bonn on Monday.

It is published by Future Earth and the Earth League, two major international organisations representing networks of global sustainability scientists, and summarizes recent earth-system science and economic research.

Saying the news that emissions are rising after a three year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind, Future Earth Executive Director Amy Luers said: “Pushing earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning.”

“Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050. Fortunately, we now have the tools to transition to a low carbon world while increasing energy security, improving human health, and strengthening economies.”

Earth League member and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said some crucial facts on climate change tend to get lost in the noise of daily deliberations — even at an event such as COP-23.

“So, it’s important to remind everyone of the very reasons why thousands of people meet in Bonn: Unprecedented risk to humanity due to global warming, as revealed by science. This must be the starting point for re-thinking.”

The 16-page report says the planet has entered a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene.

The rate of change of the earth system is accelerating as a result of human impact on the planet’s biology, chemistry and physics.

The earth is approaching critical “tipping points”. By crossing these thresholds, the planet may see abrupt, and possibly irreversible shifts in the workings of the Arctic, the Amazon and other parts of the globe.

It says the record-breaking 2017 Atlantic hurricane season provides a glimpse of the increased risks of extreme weather events that the planet may experience in the future. These events include severe flooding, heat waves and droughts.

Climate change even as has a huge impact on oceans, with accelerating rise in sea-levels and its acidification.

Foreseeing civil unrest, the scientists say the climate change is likely to exacerbate migration and even conflict.

In 2015, more than 19 million people globally were displaced by natural disasters and extreme weather events and climate change will likely cause that number to grow.

A word of caution:

If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the remaining carbon budget to reduce risk of exceeding the two degrees Celsius target will be exhausted in around 20 years.

Emissions should peak by 2020 and approach zero by around 2050 if the world is serious about reducing risks.

As a simple rule of thumb, this means halving global emissions every decade.

A society free of fossil fuels is economically attractive: renewable energy sources increasingly compete with fossil fuels, even when these are priced at historic lows.

The estimated costs of inaction range from two to 10 per cent of GDP by 2100 by some estimates, to a fall in projected global output by 23 per cent in 2100 in others.

Even if the world meets the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement targets, communities across the globe will still need to build resilience and adapt to the changes already underway, the report says.

The central goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Two years after the world united around the Paris Agreement and a year after its entry into force, the UNFCCC’s 197 parties have been reconvened for the 23rd annual climate change talks in Bonn till November 17.

The Bonn talks, which began on November 6, are expected to take a number of decisions necessary to bring the Paris Agreement to life, including meaningful progress on the agreement implementation guidelines, to achieve a goal to cut greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

(Vishal Gulati is in Bonn at the invitation of the Global Editors Network to cover COP23. He can be contacted at [email protected])


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