Scientists Warn of Disastrous Global Warming in Near Future

09 October, 2018

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is warning that the world is heating faster than predicted. The group says a major slowing of warming is critical to avoid disaster. If not, the researchers say, the threat to people, ecosystems and sustainable development will rise to irreversible levels.

The IPCC released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC Monday. It says it shows that global warming already has topped one degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

Chinese scientist Panmao Zhai is a leader of the research. He says, "One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of one degree Celsius of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes."

The scientists report that the level of warming will reach 1.5 degrees during the next thirty or so years at the current rate of greenhouse gas releases. Greenhouse gas includes waste gas like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere causing higher temperatures on Earth.

The report says the world needs to reach zero net emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050 to prevent a further rise in temperature.

It warns a further increase to two degrees Celsius would greatly increase the number of natural disasters. It would speed the melting of the Arctic sea ice, causing islands to disappear under rising seas. And the report says, it would become impossible to produce enough food to feed the world's growing population.

Petteri Taalas is Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. He says there is still time for people to change their behavior to stop an increase in greenhouse gas releases. He says preventing the world temperature from rising by one-half degree Celsius would make a huge difference in the well-being of the planet.

"One of the major issues is that there would be 420 million people less suffering because of climate change if we would be able to limit the warming to 1.5-degree level. And, we have certain areas in the world, which are extremely sensitive. Small island states, Mediterranean region and also Sub-Saharan Africa, which are already suffering and will suffer the most in the future."

Taalas suggests several actions governments and individuals can take to lower the world's temperature. One is to end the use of fossil fuels.

He says clean energy power from the sun, water, wind, and other renewable resources are available to meet humanity's needs. He says public and private transportation should use electric power.

Tallas told VOA that people can help save the planet by changing the way they live. He says this should include changes in how and what we eat.

"For example, the fact that we eat so much meat means that we are using a fairly large fraction of our agriculture land for the cattle instead of for using vegetarian food that would be more carbon friendly."

Taalas says governments have about 30 years to stop using fossil fuels and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. He says this is a major task. But he says it is not impossible.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOA News. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

irreversible adj. impossible to change back to a previous condition or state

consequences n. something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions

diminish v. to become or to cause (something) to become less in size, importance, etc.

region n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way

fraction n. a part or amount of something

cattle n. cows, bulls, or steers that are kept on a farm or ranch for meat or milk

vegetarian adj. non-meat eating