UN climate report warns of warmer earth; demands unprecedented efforts

By Nitin Sethi

If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically and rapidly, between 2030-52, Earth’s global average temperatures could rise by 1.5 degree above pre-industrial era levels, leading to widespread climate change impacts.

This is the crux of the UN climate change science panel report that all the countries accepted on Saturday after a contentious and strenuous meeting between scientists and diplomats in Korea.

On a jarring note, the US announced that it accepted the report – in effect stopped short of vetoing it – but it did not endorse the content and the findings in the report. It also reasserted that it was determined to step out of the Paris Agreement on the first given opportunity.

Before it did so, the US made a belligerent attempt to dilute the contents of the report along the lines it had planned. This included a push to drop references to how historically accumulated emissions in the atmosphere, and not just the current flow of emissions, have caused climate change.

It also objected to references to the emissions being reduced in keeping with the principle of equity and fairness.

The larger import of the finalised report’s findings was not much different from that of the drafts that had leaked out earlier, though the negotiations between government representatives and scientists did end up substantially altering how much confidence the governments placed on different findings based on the scientific evidence underlying the summarised take-aways.

The report reads, “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 degree Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 degree celsius to 1.2 degree celsius. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degree Celsius between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”

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