UN study says eating less meat and throwing out your gas boiler can stop Earth overheating

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A landmark report by the UN has warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming. Use of coal needs to fall from around 38 per cent to


A landmark report by the UN has warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming before the planet is plunged into extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty.

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people, scientists found. 

However, they provide little hope humanity will rise to the challenge.

Overall, the Earth has to reduce the amount of CO2 produced each year by 45 per cent by 2030 – and reduce CO2 production to zero by 2050.

In order to reach this, society will need to make ‘unprecedented’ changes including closing hundreds of coal-fired power stations and rapidly switching to renewable energy. 

Limiting global warming to 1.5C will cost the world $2.4 trillion (£1.8 trillion) every year for the next two decades, the UN report warns. 

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A landmark report by the UN has warned that the world has just 12 years to halt global warming. Use of coal needs to fall from around 38 per cent to ‘close to 0 per cent’ by 2050, the report found (stock image) 

The landmark report found that: 

  • Burning of coal needs to fall from 38 per cent to ‘close to 0 per cent’ by 2050
  • Renewables need to provide 85 per cent of global electricity by 2050
  • We need a radical change in diet as eating meat makes more CO2 than vegetables
  • Extensive planting of forests will be needed to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere 
  • Need to start storing carbon underground, known as bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (Beccs) 

WHAT STEPS NEED TO HAPPEN TO LIMIT WARMING TO 1.5C?

The dramatic report warned that the planet is currently heading to warm by 3C. 

To slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.

Scientists say humanity must make the following changes – 

 1. Global emissions of CO2 must decline by 45 per cent from 2010 to 2030.

2. Renewables need to provide 85 per cent of global electricity by 2050.

3. Use of coal needs to be reduced to close to zero

4. Seven million sq km of land will be given over to energy crops

5. By 2050 net emissions need to be zero.

The dramatic report warned that the planet is currently heading to warm by 3C – and to slash that to less than 1.5C as laid out in the Paris agreement will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.   

Last year Donald Trump was widely criticised for pulling the US out of the agreement – deriding it as bad for American jobs and bad for the environment. 

Scientists have said the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they climb to 2C, the UN-backed study said. 

Pre-industrial levels refers to the climate before the industrial revolution when greenhouse gas emissions were stable. Since the mid-1800s the climate has already warmed by 1C. 

At the current rate of global warming, the world’s temperatures are set to increase by another 1.5C between 2030 and 2052.

To stop this happening, the world will need to make ‘unprecedented’ changes in power generation, industry, transport, buildings and potential shifts in lifestyle such as eating less meat, according to the International Panel on Climate Change. 

It will also require a vast ramp-up in renewables so they generate 70-85 per cent of electricity supplies by 2050, while use of coal needs to fall from around 38 per cent to ‘close to 0 per cent’ by 2050. 

Activists from environmental group Greenpeace scaled the German embassy in London today, unfurling a giant green banner which called for an end to the use of coal.

Activists from environmental group Greenpeace scaled the German embassy in London today, unfurling a giant green banner which called for an end to the use of coal

Activists from environmental group Greenpeace scaled the German embassy in London today, unfurling a giant green banner which called for an end to the use of coal

HOW MUST OUR LIVES CHANGE TO SAVE THE PLANET? 

In order to save the planet from plunging into extreme heat, drought and floods, humanity will need to make several ‘unprecedented’ changes.

According to the landmark report from the International Panel on Climate Change, we will need to close down hundreds of coal-fired power stations and rapidly switch to using renewable energy. 

The feasibility of solar, wind and battery storage has improved significantly in recent years, which could signal the system is transforming, the report says.

But it is not just electricity: transport, buildings and industry would have to become significantly cleaner.

It also require people to make radical changes in diet, such as switching to a vegetarian-based diet as eating meat produces much more CO2.

The world will also have to develop technology to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Taking excess carbon from the atmosphere requires measures such as planting new forests or, more controversially, burning plant material for energy and capturing the carbon to store underground, which is known as ‘BECCS’.

Millions of square kilometres would need to be turned into forest or used for growing renewable energy crops – which could undermine food production.

At least five activists scaled the building on Belgrave Square with a banner which read: ‘Exit Coal – Protect Hambach Forest,’ according to a Reuters photographer at the scene.

The ancient forest near Cologne has been occupied by activists for the past six years and become a symbol of resistance against coal energy in Germany, a country that despite its green reputation remains heavily reliant on this dirtiest of fossil fuels. 

This latest report – backed by the United Nations – says the scale of the challenge is vast and will be expensive to carry out. 

To illustrate how far off this is, CO2 levels rose about 3 per cent a year between 2000 and 2013, and by about 0.4 per cent a year between 2013 and 2016.

Much of the slowdown since 2016 was driven by a combination in reductions by the US and China.

However, that changed in 2017 with a 1.4 per cent increase in emissions from China.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea. 

A Summary for Policymakers of the 400-page tome underscores how quickly global warming has outstripped humanity’s attempt to tame it, and outlines options for avoiding the worst ravages of a climate-addled future.

‘We have done our job, we have now passed on the message,’ Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy and an IPCC co-chair, said at a press conference.

‘Now it is over to governments – it’s their responsibility to act on it.’  

As well as a radical change in diet – because meat production produces more CO2 than growing vegetables – a switch to electric cars and extensive planting of forests to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere will be needed, the panel’s report warns.

We will also need to stop burning fossil fuels to generate power, and no longer use gas boilers to heat homes. 

The world will also have to develop technology to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and also allocate more land to growing crops for fuel.  

A major climate change report has warned that eating less meat and removing gas boilers from homes are among the ‘far-reaching’ changes needed to stop the Earth overheating. (Stock photo)

A major climate change report has warned that eating less meat and removing gas boilers from homes are among the ‘far-reaching’ changes needed to stop the Earth overheating. (Stock photo)

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LIMIT WARMING TO 1.5C COMPARED TO 2C? 

Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.

There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.

Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.

There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.

The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.

Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with warming of 1.5C, compared to more than 99 per cent with 2C 

To limit warming to 1.5C, net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

It will require a huge ramp-up in renewables so they generate 70-85 per cent of electricity supplies by 2050, while coal power’s share of the mix tumbles to almost nothing

‘For some people this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt,’ said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, a lead author on the report.    

Impacts ranging from increased droughts and water scarcity to extreme weather, spread of diseases such as malaria, economic damage, and harm to yields of maize, rice and wheat will be less severe at 1.5C than 2C.

Sea level rises would be four inches (10cm) lower with a 1.5C temperature rise compared to 2C by 2100, while there would be worse impacts on coral reefs and the Arctic at higher temperatures.

With a 2C rise, insects and plants are twice as likely to lose their habitat compared with an increase of 1.5C.

The world has seen 1C of warming so far, with consequences such as more extreme weather already being felt, and there is more to come as temperatures continue to rise, the report said.

Professor Skea said the report was ‘unambiguous’ on the difference in impacts between 1.5C and 2C of warming.

He said: ‘The changes that would be needed to keep global warming to 1.5C are really unprecedented in terms of their scale. We can’t find any historical analogies for it.

‘There are some areas we are making progress quickly enough that they are compatible with 1.5C, the example of renewables is one, where we’ve seen costs falling and deployment across the world.

‘We need to extend this kind of progress on renewables to other areas.’

Promises made by countries to cut their emissions up to 2030 will not limit global warming to 1.5C even if action is massively scaled up after the end of the next decade, the report warns. 

Responding to the report, Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘For the UK, this means a rapid switch to renewable energy and electric cars, insulating our homes, planting trees, where possible walking or cycling and eating well – more plants and less meat – and developing an industry to capture carbon and store it underground.

‘It also means adapting to the growing impacts of climate change that are felt here, particularly to the increasing flood risks from heavy rainfall and from sea level rise along our coasts.’

Alongside a change in diet The International Panel on Climate Change has set out a raft of recommendations on how to limit global warming to 1.5C. (Stock photo)

Alongside a change in diet The International Panel on Climate Change has set out a raft of recommendations on how to limit global warming to 1.5C. (Stock photo)

WHAT ARE THE KEY GOALS OF THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT?

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Goverments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

Taking steps to curb temperature rises to 1.5C can help with other aims such as improving health through lower air pollution and more sustainable diets, and alleviating poverty in the developing world.

The report stresses the need for measures to take carbon out of the atmosphere, such as planting forests or using land for crops to burn for energy and capturing the carbon and storing it underground, known as bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (Beccs). 

Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth said: ‘This report should act as a rallying cry for governments around the world to innovate, invest, and raise ambition to avert catastrophic climate change.

‘The UK has already shown carbon abatement and prosperity can go hand in hand and we lead the world in clean growth – slashing emissions by more than 40 per cent since 1990 while growing our economy ahead of the G7.

A 47-YEAR-OLD BOTTLE WASHES UP IN SOMERSET

The scourge of plastic pollution has been starkly revealed after a washing-up bottle so old it had its pre-decimal price still on it washed up at a beauty spot.

The incident at Brean beach, Somerset was a shocking illustration of how plastics can take years to decay in the sea.

The white bottle with green lettering was price $d – the equivalent of 4p in decimal currency.

Brean beach warden Dave Furber came across the Fairy Liquid bottle on the tideline during high tides last week.

The scourge of plastic pollution has been starkly revealed after a washing-up bottle so old it had its pre-decimal price still on it washed up at a beauty spot

The scourge of plastic pollution has been starkly revealed after a washing-up bottle so old it had its pre-decimal price still on it washed up at a beauty spot

The white bottle with green lettering was price $d - the equivalent of 4p in decimal currency 

The white bottle with green lettering was price $d – the equivalent of 4p in decimal currency 

‘I’ve never seen anything this old washed up before,’ he said.

‘The wording on the bottle has been weathered but you can still clearly read that it says ‘4d off’ on the front so it must date back to before decimalisation which was in 1971.’

‘That makes the bottle over 47 years old which is remarkable.

‘It shows how plastics are so slow to decay.’

The bottle was found among clumps of seaweed washed up along the beach near to Brean Down.

The incident at Brean beach, Somerset (pictured) was a shocking illustration of how plastics can take years to decay in the sea

The incident at Brean beach, Somerset (pictured) was a shocking illustration of how plastics can take years to decay in the sea

‘There is now no excuse and real action is needed.’

Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said extreme weather, especially heat waves, will be deadlier if the lower goal is passed.

Meeting the tougher-to-reach goal ‘could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heat waves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heat waves,’ the report said. 

The deadly heat waves that hit India and Pakistan in 2015 will become practically yearly events if the world reaches the hotter of the two goals, the report said.

Coral and other ecosystems are also at risk. The report said warmer water coral reefs ‘will largely disappear.’

The outcome will determine whether ‘my grandchildren would get to see beautiful coral reefs,’ Dr Oppenheimer said.

For scientists there is a bit of ‘wishful thinking’ that the report will spur governments and people to act quickly and strongly. 

One of the panel’s leaders, German biologist Hans-Otto Portner, said. ‘If action is not taken it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future.’

Q AND A: WHAT THE NEW UN CLIMATE REPORT TELLS US

A new UN report warns of the unprecedented changes needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Here is what you need to know.

What is significant about 1.5C of warming?

While warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels has widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which dangerous climate change will occur, vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

Their concerns meant a pledge to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C was included – after tough negotiations – alongside the commitment to keep them ‘well below’ 2C in the global Paris climate agreement in 2015.

– So why this report?

When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

So the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was tasked with providing the answers.

What does the report say?

It warns the world is well off track to keep to the 1.5C limit.

Even with the promises countries have made as part of the Paris Agreement to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the world is set to breach the 1.5C threshold by around 2040.

Based on those promises, we are heading for 3C by 2100 and even warmer after that.

As more greenhouse gases lead to more warming, stabilising the planet’s temperature at any level will require emissions to fall to zero overall

To keep temperatures from rising to more than 1.5C in the long term, countries need to cut carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, with steep cuts in other greenhouse gases such as methane.

Methods to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere will also be needed.

How can all that be done?

Well, it will require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change across the whole of society, according to the report.

Renewables would have to supply 70 per cent to 85 per cent of electricity in 2050, there would be a small role for gas power with technology that captured and stored its carbon, while coal would be virtually non-existent.

The feasibility of solar, wind and battery storage has improved significantly in recent years, which could signal the system is transforming, the report says.

But it is not just electricity: transport, buildings and industry would have to become significantly cleaner.

Taking excess carbon from the atmosphere requires measures such as planting new forests or, more controversially, burning plant material for energy and capturing the carbon to store underground, which is known as ‘BECCS’.

Millions of square kilometres would need to be turned into forest or used for growing renewable energy crops – which could undermine food production.

Why make all that effort for 0.5C?

The report says a 2C rise will lead to more heatwaves and extreme rainstorms, more people facing water shortages and drought, greater economic losses and lower yields for major crops than 1.5C.

Sea level rises would be 10cm lower with a 1.5C temperature rise compared to 2C by the end of the century.

While coral reefs could decline 70 per cent to 90 per cent with 1.5C of warming, virtually all the world’s reefs would be lost at 2C, while far more creatures and plants across the world face losing a large part of their range.

The Arctic is likely to be ice-free in summer around once a century at 1.5C but at least once a decade if warming climbs to 2C.

How has this report been drawn up?

The IPCC does not do any of its own research, so the report draws on more than 6,000 research papers to reach its conclusions.

The report’s authors and representatives of 195 governments which are members of the IPCC have then met to finalise the ‘summary for policymakers’ report, which involves agreeing it line-by-line.

The aim is to make the report as clear as possible while still scientifically robust – and to ensure that everybody is behind the document.

What does the report mean for the UK?

The Government and its climate advisers have been waiting for the findings of the report.

The UK already has a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and pressure has been building to set a zero-emissions target for mid-century.

In light of the report, those calls are likely to get louder still – and if it set, the transformation to a clean, low carbon economy will have to be even faster. 



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