Major climate change 'inevitable and irreversible' - harrowing UN report warns 10 months ago

Major climate change 'inevitable and irreversible' - harrowing UN report warns

"This is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable."

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in 'unprecedented' ways in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, according to the UN's latest report by leading climate scientists.

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The report, released on Monday, has announced that human factors are “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to sea levels, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts. The IPCC has warned that even if world governments can limit warming to 1.5C, sea level rises, the melting of Arctic ice, and the warming and acidification of the oceans are likely irreversible.


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Predictions paint a worrying vision of the future, with coastal regions and islands submerged in water, the arctic completely ice-free, and wildfires continuing to run rampant as temperatures increase. With Carbon Dioxide levels at the highest, they have been in 2 million years, and sea levels at the highest levels they have been in 3000 years, the IPCC are calling for governments to act now.

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"For many of these impacts there is no going back,” said Ed Hawkins, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading.

Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “This is not the first generation of world leaders to be warned by scientists about the gravity of the climate crisis, but they’re the last that can afford to ignore them.

"The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”

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Experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have even warned some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, in what amounts to the starkest warning yet.

Within 20 years, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, which falls short of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Only immediate and wholesale reductions in greenhouse emissions in the coming decade can help alleviate climate disaster, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to worsen the impact.

The IPCC has looked at over 14,000 scientific papers to help gauge the impending impact of climate change. Environmental experts believe it will be a "massive wake-up call" for governments to seriously address the climate crisis and the impact it will have on the planet over the coming decades.

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The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the UN and is used to supply world governments with information surrounding the climate crisis. Scientists say the latest report is bad news - but with "nuggets of optimism".

The intergovernmental panel brings together representatives of world governments, which has not been called since 2013. The scientific community believes it has learnt a lot since then, which should give them a more realistic vision of Earth's future.

"Our models have gotten better, we have a better understanding of the physics and the chemistry and the biology, and so they're able to simulate and project future temperature changes and precipitation changes much better than they were," said Dr Stephen Cornelius, an observer at IPCC meetings.

"Another change has been that attribution sciences have increased vastly in the last few years. We can make greater links between climate change and extreme weather events."

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, warned: "This is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk."

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Scientists have warned that this is likely the last IPCC report before the fate of the planet is set in stone. The next report will come at the end of the decade, by which time "1.5C will be out the window.”

Monday’s report will be followed next year by two further instalments: part two will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis, and the third will detail the potential solutions.