See More on Facebook

Analysis, Environment

Unprecedented cooperation needed to fight climate change

Limiting global warming to 1,5 degrees Celcius possible but will need unprecedented societal changes: UN panel.


Written by

Updated: +00

Global economies will have to begin rapid and unprecedented changes to everything from energy production to transport, agriculture and buildings if mankind is to limit damage from global warming, the United Nations’ climate panel said in a major report released on Monday (Oct 8).

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looked at the impacts of a rise in Earth’s surface temperature of 1.5 deg C and steps that societies needed to take to limit global average temperatures to that level.

IPCC scientists and officials from 195 member nations met last week in Incheon, near the South Korean capital, to haggle over the final wording of the report and a “summary for policymakers” that clearly spells out the immense climate challenge ahead.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Dr Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the report’s authors.

Scientists have long warned that rising temperatures will make the planet a deadlier place to live, in terms of extreme weather and loss of natural ecosystems, and generally assumed that mankind should limit warming to 2 deg C to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But the world has already warmed about 1 deg C since pre-industrial times. Even at that level, scientists say climate change is fuelling stronger storms, more extreme floods, deadlier heatwaves and wildfires, while hotter oceans are cooking coral reefs. Many of these impacts are occurring faster and harder than some scientists expected.

The IPCC study, which took nearly three years to complete and involved 91 authors from 40 nations, is the first to look in detail at the 1.5 deg C limit in terms of impacts and what it would take to keep temperatures at that level.

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement calls for halting the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 deg C and 1.5 deg C, if possible. Right at the end of the Paris conference, the IPCC was asked to prepare a special report on global warming of 1.5 deg C by looking at the latest science involving thousands of studies – more than 6,000 are cited.

The study was urgent because of the accelerating impacts of climate change and the relentless surge in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, reached record levels in the atmosphere last year and current pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement would lead to warming of about 3 deg C.

The authors say global warming is likely to reach 1.5 deg C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate, meaning the time to act is now. Based on current CO2 emissions from power stations, industry and transport, delaying deep cuts for another decade would make the 1.5 deg C target all but impossible and lock in more extreme weather, faster melting of ice caps and higher sea levels.

The bottom line conclusions from the report are:

That it is possible to limit global warming, but it needs immediate action by governments, businesses and ordinary citizens.

That while the difference between 1.5 deg C and 2 deg C might seem small, some climate change impacts will be less severe by limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C, compared to 2 deg C, or more. So the faster society acts and the deeper the cuts, the better off economies and ecosystems, from coral reefs to ice caps and rainforests, will be.

For example, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower with global warming of 1.5 deg C compared with 2 deg C.

The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 deg C, compared to at least once per decade with 2 deg C, the authors say.

Coral reefs would decline by 70 per cent to 90 per cent with warming of 1.5 deg C, whereas virtually all would be lost at 2 deg C.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 deg C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the report’s authors.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

It means that economies would have to rapidly shift away from burning coal, oil and gas, and invest heavily in renewable energy. In the IPCC’s most ambitious pathway, there needs to be a radical reduction in energy consumption coupled with a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and a swift decline in CO2 emissions.

Global net human-caused emissions of CO2 would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. Replanting forests, restoring grasslands and boosting carbon stored in soils are some ways to do this.

Others could be machines that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and bio-energy with carbon capture and storage.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or “overshoot” 1.5 deg C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5 deg C by 2100, it says.

But the report finds that effectiveness of some of these techniques are unproven at large scale and some might carry risks.

“This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” said co-author Dr Debra Roberts.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Environment

Myanmar running out of time to cope with climate change, warns historian Thant Myint-U

Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change and is grossly unprepared to deal with the consequences. WASHINGTON – Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, and is grossly unprepared to deal with the consequences, warns historian Dr Thant Myint-U. The Myanmar historian, author and conservationist was in the United States recently to speak on his most recent book examining race, capitalism and the crisis of democracy in Myanmar titled “The Hidden History of Burma”. In an interview for the online video and podcast Asian Insider, Dr Thant told The Straits Times the threat of climate change tipped his ledger towards pessimism about the country’s future. “I think whatever we think of the ledger in general, perhaps it comes to 50/50,” he said. “When you add on


By The Straits Times
December 9, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Is polarisation driven by Hyper Information Disorder Syndrome?

In a study of Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Poland, Turkey and the US, writes ANDREW SHENG, scientists attribute populism to the rise of decisive leaders who push nationalism, demonise opponents and stir up issues that further divide societies. BANGKOK – Mass protests seem to be breaking out all over the place, from Hong Kong to Santiago, Tehran, Bolivia, Catalonia, Ecuador, France and Iraq to Lebanon.  The root causes of these protests have many local reasons, but there are common themes, such as inequality, corruption, incompetent governments, rural-urban migration, demography, anger, social media and demand for change. But underlying all these protests is the growing polarization of societies, increasingly manifested in viol


By Asia News Network
December 9, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Trump warns N Korea could lose ‘everything’ with hostile acts

Clear warning to Kim regime to refrain from provocations such as nuclear and missile tests. WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could lose “everything” if he acts in a hostile manner, sending a clear warning to the regime to refrain from provocations such as nuclear and missile tests. Trump sent the tweet as the two countries have exchanged heated rhetoric over their stalled negotiations on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Earlier Sunday, North Korea said it had conducted an unexplained “very important test” at its Dongchang-ri satellite launching site, prompting speculation of preparations for a new long-range missile test. But the US president also signaled his commitment to continuing diplomacy with Kim, saying the North Korean leader is “too smart” to be rash. “Kim


By The Korea Herald
December 9, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Rohingya Crisis Fallout

Transparency International Bangladesh has painted a grim outlook for the crisis. Bangladesh faces long-term financial, political and security challenges as Rohingya repatriation may not happen anytime soon, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman. The fund from the international community for nearly one million Rohingyas may not sustain as no strong international initiative has been taken to oblige Myanmar for creating a conducive environment for the refugees to return soon, he said. “As a result, Bangladesh’s socio-economic instability will grow. There are risks of security at local and national levels. The crisis also creates political and diplomatic challenges for the government,” Iftekharuzzaman said. It also involves the risks of growing extremism as the people who face violence are more likely to become violent, he said at a press confere


By Daily Star
December 6, 2019

Analysis, Environment

North Korea has not given up hope for nuclear talks with US yet

Kim has mentioned a possibility of a ‘Christmas’ gift. Tensions between the US and North Korea have heightened as the two sides exchanged threats and bellicose rhetoric of possible military actions if necessary, amid their stalled nuclear talks. But they appear to have no intention to wind up their diplomacy at least for the next few weeks, experts said. On Wednesday, Heino Klinck, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said the US has been refraining from responding to every single one of North On Wednesday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck said the


By The Korea Herald
December 6, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Climate Change: Bangladesh 7th worst-hit nation

The country is at risk from cyclones and flooding. Bangladesh is seventh among the 10 countries worst hit by extreme weather events, says a global climate report. Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti top the list which has three South Asian countries and seven Asian nations, according to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2020 that analysed data from 1999 and 2018. Germanwatch, a Berlin based non-profit environmental research organisation, released the report yesterday on the sidelines of The Conference of the Parties (COP-25) meet in Madrid, Spain. In the previous report that examined data between 1998 and 2017, Bangladesh was at the ninth position. The study looked at four indicators — death toll, number of events, loss of property of each person and loss of gross domestic product. The CRI 2020 is based on the loss figures of 181 countries, it said. The report also said Japan, th


By Daily Star
December 5, 2019