Scientists point to narrowing climate gap

2015-07-07 20:01

Melbourne. (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Climate scientists gathered on Tuesday in Paris, five months before the deadline for a historic carbon-curbing pact, to show that a radical shift to sustainable energy can still limit disastrous planet warming.

On current trends, humanity would spend the estimated safe budget of Earth-warming greenhouse gases within 20-25 years, the experts said, and urged a quick and dramatic transformation of the energy sector.

"The world is at a critical crossroads," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message read to the gathering of nearly 2 000 academics from around the world.

Nations have committed to limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, but research suggested the world could be heading for double that or more, he said.

Analysis of emissions curbs pledged by nations to date to underpin the new climate rescue pact, showed the combined effort will "not be sufficient to meet the 2 degree target," said Ban.

"Clearly strong action still needs to be taken."

The four-day international science huddle opened on Tuesday in the French capital, which will also host a November 30-December 11 UN climate conference for 195 nations to thrash out the long-awaited agreement.

The gathering of academics from nearly 100 countries will review the most up-to-date science on risks and solutions, including technological advances, to feed into the Paris pact.

Scientists stressed the task was a difficult one, but not impossible.

"At current emissions, we have a time window of about 20 to 25 years until that budget [of emissions consistent with 2°C] is exhausted," said Thomas Stocker, a professor of climate physics at Bern University.

"There's only a third of the emission budget that is remaining, and... we are using it up at an unprecedented velocity. What we see today are the highest emissions in history."

The science gathering comes eight months after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) brought out a report, widely considered the bible of climate science, which warned that the 2°C window was fast closing.

Window is 'tight'

Emissions will have to drop 40-70% between 2010 and 2050, and to zero by 2100.

The 2°C target "has become extremely ambitious," said Stocker, who helped compile the IPCC report, but "substantial reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks.

"That necessitates a transformation in the energy sector" - from emissions intensive coal, gas and oil to more sustainable sources like solar and wind.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) head Michel Jarraud painted a picture of rising seas and more extreme storms and drought in a warmer world.

"It is still possible to change course and limit climate change to a reasonable level," he told the conference. "But time is short."

Even at 2°C warmer, the world will be a more hostile place.

Though it is difficult to attribute specific weather events to climate change, scientists say the world is already 0.8°C warmer and the global mean sea level 19cm higher than in 1901.

"Overall about half of all [plant and animal] species have changed where they live, changing their distribution to track the shifting climate," Camille Parmesan, from the marine institute at Plymouth University, told the conference.

But there was some good news too.

The International Energy Agency said in March that global emissions, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, stalled for the first time in 40 years in 2014.

The 2°C window, "is very tight", said Michael Grubb, a climate policy expert with the University College London, "but had last year's data been different, it would have been even tighter."

Read more on:    iea  |  paris  |  climate change

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.