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10 facts from the world’s most terrifying climate change report

An important global report on climate change says we’ve got to act (yesterday), and it’s much, much worse than we thought.

The report was written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collection of the world’s most respected climate scientists.

It says that 2.0 degrees Celsius of warming isn’t a low enough cap. That was the maximum global limit agreed in Paris in 2015. Unfortunately, even if we were meeting our targets (we’re not), it’s hard to trust politicians more than the experts when it comes to science.

The IPCC report isn’t messing around. It’s got 91 expert authors, a mind-melting 6,000 scientific references and comments from 42,000 experts. They all agree. We need to reduce our carbon emissions substantially, right now, or we’re screwed.

Rather than discuss the pretty bad stuff that happens if we manage to keep to the recommended 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, here are 10 chilling facts about what will happen if we don’t.

Industrial pollution coming from a factory at sunrise, contributing to global warming.

1. Humanity is definitely responsible. Deniers, be gone. Scientists say we caused climate change, officially.

2. Our current path is going to kill us. The IPCC has crunched the numbers. We’re on track to hit 1.5C warming by just 2040. By the end of the century, we’ll reach 4C warming, and the consequences are terrifying.

3. Coral reefs will become a fairy tale. At only 2C warming we lose 99 per cent of reefs. At 4C they will cease to exist.

4. Entire nations will drown.At 4C, many threatened island nations will be gone and cities from Miami Beach to Jakarta will also be swallowed. That’s because of the melting ice caps. Oh yeah, we’ll lose the polar ice too.

5. Extinction will become commonplace. Animals are less resilient than humans and will suffer most from climate change. As temperatures rise and weather changes, flora and fauna loss will be extreme.

6. The global economy will suffer. Developing nations will be the worst hit, but experts predict the whole global economy could drop up to 30 per cent with 4C warming.

7. Australia is one of the countries that will be most royally and unapologetically screwed by the hard facts of climate change. Incidentally, Australia is also one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Cracked landscape, the result of lengthening droughts.

8. We’ll all go hungry. Global grain yield could fall by 50 per cent at 4C. Fisheries will face hot, acidic, under-productive oceans (full of plastic). Fire and drought will wipe out agriculture.

9. We’re at tipping point. We need to act immediately and phase out fossil fuels this century. It’s necessary to drastically reduce our use of emissions by mid-century and aim for zero by 2100 or there’s no going back.

10. The solutions are available. We actually don’t have to burn coal, despite what ScoMo says. We don’t have to use petrol cars. The solutions exist, and the “base-load” argument popular in Australia is, quite frankly, coal propaganda. Renewables are efficient, reliable, getting cheaper every year, and they generate jobs, just like our favourite fossil fuel industries.

Wind turbines against a blue sky, an example of clean energy options.

The solution is simple, but it’s not easy.

The kind of change the report is talking about requires deep emissions reductions and massive investment. Sweeping changes must be made in energy, land use, transportation, buildings and industrial systems.

It’s going to be really, really hard, especially with some of the people that we’ve got in power at home and across the world, and how much we love cars and steak and spending money on everything but our own future. Now we’ve reached the point of no return.

A bunch of ridiculously well-informed scientific experts are basically saying we should act or die. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe it’s time to act.

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