UN Climate Change Panel Releases a Dire New Report on Global Warming

UN climate report
 Sean Gallup / Getty

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a new report on what would happen if global surface temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius—the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement—and the outlook is pretty grim. According to an analysis of the report from Quartz, unless the world starts to drastically slash carbon emissions immediately, global temperatures will rise beyond the 1.5-degree threshold, with potentially disastrous consequences for the planet. Many places are already under threat as it is.

Although it sounds like a small margin, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees has a big effect on how bad climate change will be. The report notes that sea level rise will be lower by about 0.1 meters, which would give coastal communities a better chance of adapting. It will also lessen the chances of extinction and loss of biodiversity, especially for coastal and marine species. A 1.5-degree increase in temperature will still cause “risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth,” the report states, but these risks will grow even more if the globe warms past that temperature.

Addressing global warming is no small task, and the report makes it clear that drastic and immediate action is necessary—across the globe, and across every sector of the global economy. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems,” it states. Such a wide-ranging transformation would be “unprecedented in terms of scale,” though not impossible.

In addition, the changes need to happen fast. The report points out that in order to avoid warming above 1.5 degrees and deploying carbon dioxide removal technologies on a large scale, global CO2 emissions need to start declining “well before 2030.”

In other words, now.