Global warming is likely to exceed the most critical goal set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement by around 2040 and will threaten economic growth, according to a draft United Nations (UN) report.
Only with ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in the world economy can governments still cap temperatures below the ambitious 1.5°C ceiling that they agreed to in 2015, said the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This damning finding was first reported by Reuters last week, based on a 4 June report it obtained which is only scheduled for release in October in South Korea, after it has been vetted and approved by governments. The report will be the main scientific guide for tackling climate change.
“If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040,” Reuters quoted the report as saying, taking into consideration some 25,000 comments from experts and a pool of scientific literature.
The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to ‘well below’ a rise of 2°C above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher 1.5° goal.
However, it was weakened after US President Donald Trump decided last year to pull out and turn to focus on US fossil fuels.
Temperatures are already up about 1°C and are rising at a rate of about 0.2°C a decade, according to the draft, requested by world leaders as part of the Paris Agreement.
Economic growth is projected to be lower at 2°C warming than at 1.5° for many developed and developing countries, according to the report, as it causes impacts such as floods or droughts that can undermine crop growth or an increase in human deaths from heatwaves.
On the flipside, in a plus-1.5°C world, sea level rise would be 10cm less than with 2°C, exposing about 10 million fewer people in coastal areas to risks such as floods, storm surges or salt spray damaging crops.
According to Reuters, the report said that current government pledges in the Paris Agreement are too weak to limit warming to 1.5°C.
It highlighted one new scenario to stay below 1.5°C, for instance, in which technological innovations and changes in lifestyles could mean sharply lower energy demand by 2050 even with rising economic growth.
To combat a rise above 1.5°C, other solutions the report mentions are to increase the use of renewable energies like wind, solar and hydro power and governments finding ways to extract vast amounts of carbon from the air via measures like planting vast forests.
The IPCC did not immediately provide an official response to Reuters on the report, citing that it does not comment on the contents of draft reports while work is still ongoing.