Thursday 29th September 2016                 Change text size:

Climate will irrevocably change unless bold action is taken, scientists warn



power plant emissions by Matt Buck via Flickr

Unless world leaders take bold climate action this year a number of tipping points could be crossed, resulting in a “vastly different climate” and far-reaching, devastating consequences, scientists have warned.

In a written statement 17 scientists have set out their argument for climate action as well as eight key elements that should be included in a climate agreement. Johan Rocktröm, chair of the Earth League, an organisation of scientists who work together to respond to the most pressing issues facing humankind, argues that the “window of opportunity is closing fast”.

The statement has been published ahead of a UN climate summit that will be held in Paris in December, where it is hoped that an ambitious universal climate treaty can be put in place. Earth League states that this summit is the “last chance” to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.

The statement says, “2015 is a critical year for humanity. Our civilisation has never faced such existential risks as those associated with global warming, biodiversity erosion and resource depletion. Our societies have never had such an opportunity to advance prosperity and eradicate poverty.

“We have the choice to either fully embark on the journey towards sustainability or to stick to our current destructive ‘business-as-usual’ pathway.”

The aim of a climate treaty is to limit temperature increases to 2C, beyond scientists have previously warned of worsening and unpredictable impacts. The organisation notes that we are probably edging “very close” to climate tipping points and may already have crossed one with regards to melting parts of the Antarctica. However, it adds that a good climate future that limits climate change is still within reach.

“We are currently on a warming trajectory that will leave our world irrevocably change, far exceeding the 2C mark,” the scientists state.

“This gamble could propel us into completely unchartered waters, with unmanageable sea-level rise and a vastly different climate, including devastating heat waves, persistent droughts and unprecedented floods. The foundations of our societies, including food security, infrastructure, ecosystem integrity and human health could be in jeopardy, impacting most immediately the poor and vulnerable.”

In order to avoid this future the scientists set out eight essential elements of climate action in Paris. This includes the reaming global carbon budget, the limit of what the world can still emit in the future, being well below 1,000 gigatonnes. Since the beginning of industrialisation humankind has emitted around 2,000 gigatonnes of CO2 and current trends suggest the carbon budget will be used up in the next 25 years.

Photo: Matt Buck via Flickr

Further reading:

Climate change among greatest threats to human civilisation

Climate change records support predictions, say scientists

Climate change leading to emergence of infectious disease

Stranded assets and climate change on Bank of England agenda

New series demonstrates climate change impacts on businesses


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