The Earth is likely to warm by 1.5C up to a decade earlier than previously expected, a bombshell United Nations report will warn today.
Scientists had expected temperatures to rise by 1.5C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 but now believe it will happen between this year and 2040.
It is the world’s largest ever report into climate change and comes as record heatwaves, wildfires and floods hit countries around the world.
The 1.5C mark is considered to be the point where climate change becomes increasingly dangerous.
The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change committed countries to limiting warming to 1.5C but they have already risen by 1.2C.
The message in the latest report is expected to be even stronger, with warnings of how soon global temperatures could rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a limit that countries have pledged to try to avoid breaching because of the dangerous consequences for humanity.
Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific papers, the review is set to provide the latest knowledge on past and potential future warming, how humans are changing the climate and how that is increasing extreme weather events and driving sea-level rises.
A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire burning on the island of Evia, Greece at the weekend
Last month more than 180 people died in western Europe after some of the worst flooding in decades. Pictured is the district of Ahrweiler in western Germany, which was badly affected
Local residents look at the wildfire approaching the village of Gouves on Evia, Greece
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
Professor Piers Forster, from Leeds University – one of the scientists involved in the process, said: ‘This report will be able to say a whole lot more about the extremes we are experiencing today and it will be able to be categoric that our emissions of greenhouse gases are causing them and they are also going to get worse.’
He told LBC Radio: ‘The report will come with quite a lot of bad news about where we are and where we’re going, but there are going to be nuggets of optimism in there which I think are really good for the climate change negotiations.
‘The first one is that, if can really get our act together to cut our greenhouse gas emissions within the next 10-year timeframe and to get to these net-zero targets that everyone is talking about, there’s a good chance we can try and keep temperatures in the longer term below 1.5 degrees.’
Today’s report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was produced by 200 scientists from 60 countries.
It is the first comprehensive assessment of the science of climate change since 2013 and offers the starkest warning yet about the speed and scale of warming.
An interim report published in 2018 said global warming was likely to reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052.
But the new IPCC forecasts will bring this window forward a decade to between 2021 and 2040, according to The Sunday Times.
The document is predicted to trigger a ‘turning point’ in the run-up to the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.
Cabinet minister Alok Sharma, who is Cop26 president, said countries must work harder to reduce emissions and ensure the threshold is not breached.
He added: ‘This report will be a big wake-up call for countries to do even more. Glasgow will be about keeping 1.5C in reach.
‘It will genuinely be a decisive moment in history.’
More than 230 deaths were reported in British Columbia after a blistering heatwave, labelled a once-in-10,000-year ‘heat dome’, gripped Canada and the US West Coast. The Canadian city of Vancouver is pictured
Climate change has also been blamed for melting some of the glaciers in the Alps (pictured)
In an interview with the Observer, he said: ‘You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.’
He warned world was getting ‘dangerously close’ to running out of time to cut greenhouse gas, adding: ‘I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time.’
Mr Sharma said: ‘Every fraction of a degree rise makes a difference and that’s why countries have to act now.
‘We’re seeing the impacts across the world – in the UK or the terrible flooding we’ve seen across Europe and China, or forest fires, the record temperatures that we’ve seen in North America,’ he said.
‘Every day you will see a new high being recorded in one way or another across the world.’
The 2018 IPCC report warned that overshooting the 1.5C limit would mean more extreme weather, greater sea-level rises and damage to health, wildlife and crops.
In Greece yesterday, ferries carried hundreds of tourists and residents to safety as wildfires raged on the island of Evia.
More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from the island in the past week.
The inferno was among dozens in Greece after temperatures soared to 45C (113F).
Fire crews from London, Merseyside, Lancashire, Wales and the West Midlands flew to Athens at the weekend to help.
No 10 fears carbon target will hurt Red Wall voters
Boris Johnson’s ‘net zero’ plans have been thrown into doubt over fears that ‘Red Wall’ voters will bear the brunt of the costs.
A Treasury review of the costs of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 has been delayed since the spring.
The report has yet to be published over fears that it will be politically toxic in the northern Red Wall seats won from Labour by the Tories in the last election, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also said to be increasingly concerned about the surging cost of lowering greenhouse emissions.
Moves to decarbonise the economy include replacing gas boilers and switching to electric or hydrogen cars – which involve huge upfront costs. Ministers are said to be working on plans to achieve net zero without disproportionately ‘clobbering’ the finances of poorer families.
It comes after the Daily Mail revealed on Saturday that a court has told climate policy chiefs to show why they think reaching net zero will cost only 1.3 per cent of GDP. The target is the centrepiece of Mr Johnson’s Cop26 strategy – but other countries have put a much higher cost on the same goal.
A Government spokesman said: ‘At every step on the path to net zero, this government will put affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms such as through investing £1.3billion into keeping bills low.’