There is a one-in-ten chance of the world being 6C warmer than it is today by 2100 which would lead to cataclysmic changes in the global climate with unimaginable consequences for human civilisation, leading climate researchers have warned in an “Earth Statement”.
The risk of hitting the highest upper estimate for global warming based on current levels of carbon dioxide emissions is now so high that it is equivalent to tolerating the risk of 10,000 fatal aircraft crashes a day, according to the 17 “Earth League” scientists and economists who have signed the joint statement.
The experts have drawn up a three-page summary of the action needed to be agreed on at the UN meeting in Paris this December, which is widely seen as the last chance for the world’s political leaders to agree on a binding treaty to prevent the global climate from slipping into a dangerously precarious state.
Scientists calculate that the world has already warmed by an average of about 0.85C over the past 120 years and that a further increase of no more than 2C is the lowest that could be tolerated without running the risk of dangerous climate “tipping points” leading to further, accelerated warming.
“We should aim to stay as far below [2C] as possible, since even 2C warming will cause significant damage and disruption. However, we are currently on a path to around 4C warming by 2100, which would create unmanageable environmental challenges,” says the statement.
“If we do not act now, there is even a 1 in 10 risk of going beyond 6C by 2100. We would surely not accept such a high risk of disaster in other realms of society. As a comparison, such a 1 in 10 probability is the equivalent of tolerating about 10,000 airplane crashes every day worldwide,” it says.
The Earth League researchers, who include economists Jeffrey Sachs and Lord Stern as well as world renown climate scientists from Europe, Brazil and India, warn that time is running out for a climate deal that binds countries to a process of “deep decarbonisation” where fossil fuels are largely replaced with cleaner sources of sustainable energy by 2050.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
“2015 is potentially one of the most decisive years in modern human history on earth when it comes to determining our future prospects for wellbeing and prosperity for 9 to 10 billion people over the next century,” said Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden who chaired the Earth League group.
“The key element of this statement is that a window is still open, but just barely. There is still an opportunity to make the transition to a safe, reasonably-stable climate in the future, and the decisions in 2015 may be decisive for that opportunity,” Dr Rockstrom said.
“If we follow the current trajectory of ‘business as usual’, it would have a one-in-ten probability of leading to 6C by the end of this century, and 6C, I think even the climate sceptics would agree, is place the world does not want to be in,” he said.
“It’s a place we have no evidence whatsoever of being capable of supporting the modern world as we know it. A one in ten probability of a catastrophic outcome is a very high number, in fact it is so high it would be equivalent to accepting 10,000 fatal aircraft crashes every day.
“It’s a probability level that we would never ever accept in any other sector of society, but we do so for some odd reason when it comes to the slow-changing risk of climate change,” he added.
The Earth Statement lists eight areas of action needed to be agreed on in Paris. This includes the agreement that countries will only be able to emit about half of the carbon dioxide – about 1,000 gigatonnes – that has already been released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. This would mean leaving three quarters of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
“With current emission trends, the remaining 1,000 gigatonnes of CO2 would be used up within the next 25 years,” the statement says.
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins of the Grantham Institute for climate change at Imperial College London, one of the 17 signatories, said that climate change has had too little recognition as an election issue in Britain despite its huge significance for future generations.
“It’s like the Titantic sailing into waters with icebergs and yet what we hear is a debate in the bar about who’s going to buy the drinks. Get real. We are all on this boat and there’s some pretty nasty stuff out there and yet the conversation is at a trivial level,” Sir Brian said.
Dr Rockstrom added: “We are on a trajectory that will leave our world irrevocably changed, far exceeding the 2C mark. This gamble risks disaster for humanity with unmanageable sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts and floods.”
Eight-point plan to save the world
1. Governments must limit global warming to below 2C in order to limit unprecedented climate risks.
2. The limit of future CO2 emissions must be well below 1000 gigatonnes of CO2 to have a reasonable chance to hold the 2C line.
3. Countries must commit to deep decarbonisation, starting immediately and leading to a zero-carbon society by 2050.
4. Every country must formulate an emissions pathway consistent with deep decarbonisation. For the sake of fairness, rich countries and progressive industries can and should take the lead and decarbonise well before mid-century.
5. Targeted research, development, demonstration and diffusion of low-carbon energy systems and sustainable land use are prerequisites to unleash a wave of climate innovation.
6. A global strategy to limit vulnerability, build resilience and deal with loss and damage of communities from climate impacts.
7. Countries must agree to safeguard carbon sinks and vital ecosystems, such as forests.
8. Governments must urgently encourage new sources of climate finance for developing countries to enable our rapid transition to zero-carbon, climate-resilient societies.