We only have a decade to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
That's the warning the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out last year. But so far, nations are not slashing emissions enough to keep Earth's temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the threshold established in the Paris climate agreement.
"What we know is that unabated climate change will really transform our world into something that is unrecognisable," Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute's climate program.
That transformation has already begun. The last few years saw record-breaking temperatures, catastrophic and bizarre storms, and unprecedented ice melt. That's all likely to get worse by 2030.
From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C.
To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatons per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate.
Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen.
From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade.
Given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900 for all but one scenario.
- The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped
- Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 percent since 1990
- Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades
- It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
- Major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold
2019 was the second warmest year on record and the end of the warmest decade (2010- 2019) ever recorded.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019.
Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme.
Although greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop about 6 percent in 2020 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels.
Saving lives and livelihoods requires urgent action to address both the pandemic and the climate emergency.
The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, through appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework.