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Academics urge united response to achieve 1.5°C limit

Academics urge united response to achieve 1.5°C limit

The IPCC's long anticipated report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C says that Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate and that impacts even at that temperature, let alone 2°C, will be highly disruptive.

Sir Alan Mark, Chair of Wise Response, a Society which promotes a scientific and rational response to environmental threats, says that while further confirmation of the extent of the challenge at one level is disturbing, at another, the robust debate precipitated by the report is most encouraging.

The report concludes that while it is possible, not overshooting 1.5°C of warming will require, in terms of scale, an "unprecedented" shift in the way we conduct our lives to stay within that limit.

Climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger, also a member of the Society said, "Of all the IPCC reports, this is the most significant so far because it shows so clearly the difference between the impacts of 1.5°C and 2.0°C is "earth-shattering". Uncertainty around rate of the permafrost thawing and associated methane feedback means timing of tipping points is uncertain and it behoves us to be highly precautionary".

Ecologist Sir Alan said altitude ranges could rise by 300 metres with 2deg, and only 200 metres with a 1.5deg warming and undoubtedly threaten many of our endemic alpine plant species.

"You might recall too that recent studies showed that with temperature increases, the male-bias in Tuatara populations escalates, putting at risk the future of our most unique and prestigious endemic animal " he added.

Liz Slooten, Associate Professor of marine science and Deputy Chair of Wise Response, draws attention to the statement in the report that with global working of 1.5°C, coral reefs and much of the associated fish species would decline by 70-90 percent whereas with 2°C, virtually all would be lost.

Professor of Applied Mathematics Robert McLachlan points out that the previous IPCC report (AR5, Nov 2014) put the risk of large scale singular events such as destabilisation of Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets, slowdown of the Gulf Stream, increased intensity of El Nino, and changes in the southern ocean as “moderate” at 1.9°C and “high” at 4°C. This new IPCC report puts such risks as moderate at 1°C and high at 2°C. That means we are already within that temperature range and any one event, would signal a new level of impact.

The following chart prepared by Dr McLachlan and combining data from IPCC and the Global Carbon Project, illustrates the rate of emissions reduction required to comply with the emissions budgets for different temperature scenarios. A 6%/year reduction in emissions would keep us within 1.5 degrees warming.

Climate Minster James Shaw advises that political parties are currently negotiating the Zero Carbon Bill, the purpose of which is to guide our transition in accordance with a curve that meets the net zero goal by 2010. To assure the continuity, the Government see a bipartisan agreement as essential. Wise Response support this intention 100% and urges all parties to take the time to fully comprehend the implications of the IPCC report to ensure that our response is adequate.

On the question of the economics, Professor Jonathan Boston Victoria University says it has been comprehensively dealt with by the Productivity Commission. "They were specifically charged with the task of determining the feasibility of NZ transitioning and they show that decarbonising without massive dislocation is quite possible" he said.

Economist Cath Wallace, formerly also of Victoria, said "There is urgency but there are also huge rewards and opportunities from making vital investments in transition, switching production and lifestyle changes now. If we don’t, we face huge and fundamental losses of human welfare, economic benefits and employment and in damaged functioning of planetary systems".

Associate Professor Lisa Ellis, Environmental Philosopher of Otago believes that if you include externalities and opportunity costs, our current way of life is based on debt: we are selling off our natural capital for present benefits at the expense of the future. That is an economic point as well as a moral one.

Dr Jim Salinger emphasized the Society's position on the Carbon Zero Bill. "Two particular provisions in the Bill - that of a scientifically based GHG emissions goal to achieve NZ's fair contribution toward climate stabilisation and scope for proposed Climate Change Commission to be able to make recommendations on the treatment of all gases, including agricultural - simply must be agreed".

Associate Professor of Psychology, Niki Harre, Auckland considers that rather than "weighing up" whether its economic to transition, we all need to "examine what we value, the country we want to live in, the kind of citizens we want to be and how this fits with radical action on climate change". This approach should also smooth the way to consensus on the Bill.

Sir Alan Mark said "A major weakness in efforts so far to combat climate change has been failing to awaken an urgent desire in individual citizens to slay this beast. People need to demand policies and system transitions from government that enable each and every one of us to reduce our footprint, both personal and in business"

Associate Professor Emeritus, Bob Lloyd, now a consulting physicist, neatly summed up the Wise Response case with "climate change may not present like a hostile invading army, but it is no less an existential threat and now demands an equivalent, uncompromising and united response".

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