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Is it time to panic?


Climate change

There’s one key takeaway from last week’s IPCC report

Cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible

Dana Nuccitelli

Mon 15 Oct 2018 06.00 EDT Last modified on Mon 15 Oct 2018 06.02 EDT Shares 149 Comments 214

Bleached coral in Guam in 2017.

Once we reach 2°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures, the IPCC concludes coral reefs will all die off. Photograph: David Burdick/AP The Paris climate agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, but also an aspirational target of no more than 1.5°C. That’s because many participating countries – especially island nations particularly vulnerable to sea level rise – felt that even 2°C global warming is too dangerous. But there hadn’t been a lot of research into the climate impacts at 1.5°C vs. 2°C, and so the UN asked the IPCC to publish a special report summarizing what it would take to achieve the 1.5°C limit and what the consequences would be of missing it. The details in the report are worth understanding, but there’s one simple critical takeaway point: we need to cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible. We’re about to burn through the 1.5°C carbon budget. Depending on how we define ‘pre-industrial temperatures’ and how fast we keep consuming fossil fuels, we’ll likely burn through the rest of the 1.5°C carbon budget within the next 3 to 10 years. To stay below 1.5°C, the IPCC therefore concludes the world must embark on a World War II-level effort to transition away from fossil fuels, and also start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at large scales – anywhere from 400bn to 1.6tn tons of it.

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