UN climate change panel calls for rapid, far-reaching changes

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is a United Nations body assessing the science related to climate change, which has 195 member states.

UQ Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg , a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report said current analysis revealed we could still meet a 1.5°C target.

“However, it will involve a very significant increase in addressing the mitigation challenge,” he said.

“I hope that governments and the public read this important document and begin the deep and concerted action required to avoid the serious impacts of reaching and exceeding global warming of 2.0 °C.

“We are at one-minute-to-midnight on the clock showing the time left to act on climate change," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The world has warmed by one degree Celsius since the pre-industrial period and the science is clear that it is caused by humans.

Activities such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests raise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm.

The report found that the world is already experiencing the impacts of rapid and unequivocal global warming such as the decline of coral reefs, sea level rise, Arctic sea ice loss, decreasing biodiversity, declining crop yields, more frequent heatwaves and droughts in some regions, and heavy rainfall events in others.

Some places, or hotspots are changing at different rates and are warming faster than the global average.

By the decade 2006-2015, 20 to 40 per cent of the global population had already experienced warming of 1.5°C in at least one season.

The summary also assessed the advantages of staying at 1.5°C versus achieving 2.0 °C and concluded that the cost of action was much lower than the cost of inaction.

"A key finding of the report is that 1.5°C is not a safe level of global warming; however it is much safer than 2.0 °C," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"We are still going to see many challenges at 1.5°C.

“The implications are quite serious for Australia, especially if the international community doesn’t urgently pull together to solve this problem.

"We need to show that we are serious about the issues which will affect our country for generations."