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Report confronts nations with tough climate choices

Paris, Sunday

The world’s nations will gather at a UN conference in South Korea on Monday to review and approve a 20-page bombshell —distilled from more than 6,000 scientific studies—laying out narrowing options for staving off climate catastrophe.

When the 195 countries who signed off on the Paris Agreement in 2015 requested a report from UN-led scientists on the feasibility of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the gesture seemed to many unnecessary.

The treaty, after all, enjoined the world to block the rise in Earth’s surface temperature at “well below” 2C compared to pre-industrial levels, adding a safety buffer to the two-degree threshold long seen as the guardrail for a climate-safe world.

Since then, however, a crescendo of deadly heat waves, floods, wildfires and superstorms engorged by rising seas—with less than 1C warming so far—has convinced scientists that the danger cursor needed to be reset.

“There is increasing and very robust evidence of truly severe and catastrophic risks even at the lower bounds of these temperature targets,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

The promise of “pursuing efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C—added to the Paris treaty at the last minute, in part to assuage poor nations who felt short-changed on other fronts—caught scientists off-guard.

“There wasn’t very much literature on 1.5C warming three years ago,” said Jim Skea a co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), the UN science body charged with writing the “Special Report” on 1.5C. -AFP

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