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UN: World far from limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius

Scientists argue the tools for positive change remain available to policy makers, but action needs to happen sooner rather than later to avoid disaster.

By
Brooks Hays
Several studies have determined an increase in global temperatures, heat waves and droughts -- all consequences of climate change -- will increase the frequency and severity of wildfires. A new report by UN scientists suggests a five-fold increase in emissions reduction efforts is needed to stave off the most harmful effects of global warming. Photo by EPA-EFE/PETER DASILVA
Several studies have determined an increase in global temperatures, heat waves and droughts -- all consequences of climate change -- will increase the frequency and severity of wildfires. A new report by UN scientists suggests a five-fold increase in emissions reduction efforts is needed to stave off the most harmful effects of global warming. Photo by EPA-EFE/PETER DASILVA

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- There's a lot of work to do if humans are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the Paris climate agreement.

According to a new United Nations report, governments and industry will need to increase their emissions reduction efforts five-fold to limit global warming to a manageable degree and stave off the more dire impacts of climate change.

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The new emissions report, produced and published by scientists with the UN Environment Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirmed carbon dioxide emissions rose in 2017 -- the first time in four years. The increase was fueled by global economic growth.

"If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation," Joyce Msuya, deputy executive director of UN Environment, said in a news release. "The science is clear: for all the ambitious climate action we've seen -- governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We're feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach."

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According to the new report, global greenhouse emissions show no signs of naturally peaking. To slow climate change, significant interventions are necessary.

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The study's authors determined the window for keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius is still open. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is also still technically possible, but the window is closing.

If the gap between current promises for emissions reductions and the reduction targets set by the Paris agreement isn't closed by 2030, it's unlikely warming will be limited to 1.5 degrees. Currently, the emissions gap is the largest it's ever been.

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In other words, current efforts to curb emissions and slow global warming have fallen woefully short.

"There is still a tremendous gap between words and deeds, between the targets agreed by governments worldwide to stabilize our climate and the measures to achieve these goals," said Dr Gunnar Luderer, co-author of the new report and a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the BBC.

Previous studies suggest limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, instead of 2 degrees, could significantly reduce the risk of extreme weather, including increases in deadly heat waves, droughts and extreme precipitation events.

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Scientists argue the tools for positive change remain available to policy makers, but action needs to happen sooner rather than later to avoid disaster.

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"When governments embrace fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives and tax fossil fuels, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions." said Jian Liu, chief scientist at UN Environment. "Thankfully, the potential of using fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized."

In addition to encouraging the use of green energies, governments need to end subsidies for fossil fuels.

"If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10 percent by 2030," Liu said. "Setting the right carbon price is also essential. At USD $70 per ton of CO2, emission reductions of up to 40 percent are possible in some countries."

Last week, the U.S. government issued its own dire warning about the risk of climate change.

In reaction to the federal report, President Trump said: "I don't believe it."

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