Climate change report draws UN call for action

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd called Oct. 8 for accelerated action to combat climate change. The statement comes after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. Boyd said that climate change is "one of the greatest threats to human rights" and will have devastating effects on the "rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment." In order to meet human rights obligations, Boyd called on counties to exceed their Paris Agreement obligations. If the temperature is allowed to increase 2.0°C, it would result in "human rights violations upon millions of people."

The IPCC report estimates that a temperature increase of 1.5°C will be reached between 2030 and 2052 if no changes are made. Global temperatures have already increased by nearly 1°C over pre-industrial levels. In order to limit the increase to 1.5°C, the models predict that a 45% decline in CO2 emissions is necessary from 2010 levels by 2030. In order to limit temperature rise to under 2°C, CO2 emissions need to be reduced by 20% by 2030, with net zero CO2 emissions being achieved by 2075.

In order to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, by 2050, coal electricity generation would need to be reduced to 0-2% of global generation (down from the current 40%). Natural gas electricity generation, even with carbon dioxide capture and storage, would need to be reduced to 3-11 percent of total global generation (down from the current 20%).

From Jurist, Oct. 8. Used with permission.

Note: In a scenario of 1.°C rise over pre-industrial levels, the report foresees worsening food shortages and wildfires, inundating coastlines, and intensifying droughts and poverty by 2040. At a worst-case 2°C of warming, the report predicts a "disproportionately rapid evacuation" of people from the tropics. (NYT) The report comes as other countries around the world are threatening to follow the US withdrawal from the Paris climate pact. In Australia, a plan to reduce emmissions has been abandoned, and conservatves are calling for the country drop its Paris accord commitments altogether. In Brazil, right-wing presidential front-runner Jair Bolsonaro is openly calling for the country—which contains the Earth's largest expanse of rainforest—to drop out of the accord. (The Guardian, New Scientist)

The Paris Agreement, adopted at a December 2015 summit, permits a 2°C increase, but calls upon signatories to work towards a  1.°C increase.