Saving the world from catastrophic climate change will not be cheap

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The earth is barreling towards a catastrophic future of extreme weather events, food shortages, wildfires and the extinction of all coral reef by 2040, according to a report published Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And the only solution is to spend a lot of money.

The IPCC argues that governments must invest at least 2.5 percent of global GDP in order to limit the rise of temperatures on earth to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


The report calls for an investment of $2.4 trillion per year in clean energy solutions until 2035, while at the same time reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations to almost zero by 2050.

Scientists claim that “there are costs and benefits” to weigh up and that cutting emissions hard in the short term may cost a lot of money but it is still cheaper than paying for carbon dioxide removal later this century.

"The report also talks about the benefits as there is higher economic growth at 1.5 degrees than there is at 2 degrees, and you don't have the higher risk of catastrophic impacts at 1.5 that you do at 2,” Dr. Stephen Cornelius, a former U.K. IPCC negotiator, said.

The report was published in South Korea following a week of negotiations between the scientists who authored the report and 195 representatives from governments around the world.

The document sets out the stark choice, saying exceeding 1.5 degrees would be playing with the livability of the planet.

According to the data collected over the last three years, the earth is on course to be 3 degrees Celsius warmer by 2100, which is double the target set out in the 2015 Paris Accord, signed by 200 nations — though the U.S. recently withdrew from the agreement.

Speaking about Trump’s decision to withdraw, Professor Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC, told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “He can’t tear up the agreement, all he can do is withdraw from it. There are very clear indications from almost every other country in the world that they are going to stick with it and in fact even compensate for any gaps led by the U.S.”


In order to achieve the target figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report says carbon emissions need to be cut by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2010 figures, and the world will need to be carbon neutral by 2047 — and even then we will only have a 66 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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“Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW IDIOTS’, but they need to say that with facts and numbers,” Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace, who was an observer at the negotiations, said. “And they have.”

But not everyone is so concerned. Speaking on Monday before the IPCC report was published, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not be spending any money on “global climate conferences and all that nonsense.”

Cover image: Picture of earth showing the entire North American continent, Central America, the northern half of South America, Greenland and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. (NASA/ Barcroft USA / Getty Images)