- By Jonathan Perez
New report warns: Time is running out; island countries in immediate danger
Global warming to exceed 1.5-degree limit by 2040
With a narrow window to act, the Blue Pacific is on the brink of a climate catastrophe, the Pacific Islands Forum's leader warned, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate's (IPCC) latest report that called for immediate reduction in carbon emissions.
“On the current trajectory, we are on track to exceed the 1.5-degree limit on global warning by 2040," said Henry Puna, PIF's secretary general.
“Of major concern for the Blue Pacific Continent and the future of our island homes, is the fact sea levels could rise by two metres by 2100 and a disastrous five metres by 2150."
According to the IPCC report, many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.
Some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, the report said.
The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades.
"To put this into perspective, this will result in the loss of millions of lives, homes and livelihoods across the Pacific and the world," Puna said in a statement.
Scientists warned that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
The report, released Monday, said the emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.
"This assessment is based on improved observational datasets to assess historical warming, as well progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions," states the report, titled Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis.
The IPCC working group said strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change, although it would take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.
“This report reflects extraordinary efforts under exceptional circumstances,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “The innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.”
“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”
But it is not just about temperature. Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming. These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans.
“Governments, big business, the major emitters of the world can no longer ignore the voices of those already enduring this unfolding existential crisis. They can no longer choose rhetoric over action," Puna said. "There are simply no more excuses to be had. Our actions today will have consequences now and into the future for all of us to bear."
He cited the PIF's 2019 Kainaki Lua Declaration as the region's clarion call for urgent climate action.
"Not later. Not when we decide we are ready. But now," Puna said. “Collectively, humanity has a choice to make this a turning point to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, or rather hit a tipping point and face irreversible and catastrophe climate change impacts."