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

Beijing slams unrest and backs HK govt’s use of lawful means to tackle it

Protests have shut down Hong Kong for the past several days before a government crackdown. Beijing yesterday condemned the unrest that broke out in Hong Kong over the city’s extradition Bill as an organised riot, and said it supported the local government’s use of lawful means to resolve the situation. Asked if the central government supported the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong was against any act that undermines the city’s prosperity and stability. “Any civilised and lawful society will not tolerate the destruction of peace and tranquillity,” he said. “The Chinese central government strongly condemns all types of violence and supports the Hong Kong government to handle the matter according to the law.” Chinese state media


By The Straits Times
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Hong Kong protests turn violent

At least 72 people taken to hospital during clashes with police. At least 72 people were injured and taken to hospital during clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday (June 12) over a contentious extradition Bill, said Hong Kong authorities. By night time, police officers were still in a stand-off with protesters on Queensway, not far from Admiralty Station, even though most of the protestors had dispersed following the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Earlier, police fired rubber bullets at protesters after they declared a “riot” as – for the second time in days – clashes broke out between police and protesters demonstrating against the controversial extradition Bill.


By The Straits Times
June 13, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Abe to visit Iran to mediate with U.S.

The Japanese Prime Minister is due in Tehran today. The government is making arrangements for Abe to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. Abe will encourage the United States and Iran to hold direct dialogue, aiming to mediate the increasing tensions between two countries over their nuclear agreement. It will be the first visit to Iran by an incumbent prime minister in 41 years, since former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda visited the country in 1978, and the first since the Islamic revolution of 1979. According to government sources, the government is considering having Abe meet with Rouhani on Wendesday and with Khamenei on Thursday. Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Teheran on Wednesday before Abe’s arrival and meet with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.


By The Japan News
June 12, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Hong Kong leader defiant despite protest over extradition bill.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says extradition Bill has to be passed as opponents call for fresh protests. A day after what organisers touted as an unprecedented protest with a record one million people taking to the streets to protest against proposed changes to an extradition Bill, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has shown no signs of backing down even as opponents called for fresh protests. Mrs Lam told the media late in the morning on Monday (June 10) that the proposed amendments to the Bill that will go through a second reading on Wednesday (June 12), “will help to uphold justice”. She noted that the intense discussions over the last four months since the idea was mooted in early February “is quite unprecedented”.


By The Straits Times
June 11, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Collateral Advantage: Opportunities for Asean nations in the trade war

Quinn Libson looks at how ASEAN countries could prosper despite the trade war between the US and China. Optimism about a potential trade deal between the United States and China faded in late May when President Donald Trump accused Beijing of backtracking on agreements. Trump followed up the accusation with a punitive tariff hike of more than double to 25% on Chinese goods worth $200 billion. He also threatened to increase tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of goods China exports to the US annually. Early in June, China responded by raising tariffs to 25% on many of the $60 billion worth US export products. When the world’s two largest economies exchange blows on goods worth billions of dollars, it’s impossible for other markets to avoid collateral consequences. Asean countries have not been spared the shocks of this trade dispute. But many are also hoping to leverage t


By Quinn Libson
June 10, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Mass protest in Hong Kong over extradition law

Proposed changes to extradition law in Hong Kong draws record number to the streets. In what organisers described as the biggest protest seen in the territory since it was returned to the Chinese by the British in 1997, hundreds of thousands took to the streets on Sunday (June 9) to pressure the government to undo changes to an unpopular extradition law which critics charged could be used against opponents of Beijing. The rally came ahead  of the second reading of the legislation on Wednesday (June 12) as the government moves to secure its quick passage with the backing of pro-establishment lawmakers. Rally organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy groups estimated the turnout at more than half a million but police put the figure at 240,000.


By The Straits Times
June 10, 2019