A group of 91 scientists from 40 countries have concluded there is a substantial risk of a climate change disaster as soon as 2040 unless immediate, radical changes are made to the global economy.
The new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that if global emissions continue at current rates, the world will warm by as much as 1.5C (2.7F,) by 2040.
That in turn would cause the mass die-off of the world's coral reefs, worsen global wildfire and coastal flooding, and lead to food shortages that in turn creates a humanitarian and refugee crisis.
The report makes for depressing reading, noting that unless there are urgent political and economical changes – including, notably, a severe reduction in coal burning for energy generation – the world is headed for an unprecedented climate crisis.
"Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group.
Here are some of the key points from the report:
– To prevent a 2.7F warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.
– The use of coal as an electricity source needs to drop from 40 percent today to between 1-7 percent, while renewables need to increase to 67 percent of our energy, compared to about 20 percent today.
– A stringent carbon tax would be required to help reduce the risk of a 2.7F temperature rise by 2040, that for the long-term well-being of the world would have to hit as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100.
– The report notes that this would be politically impossible in the U.S., where President Donald Trump is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and attempting to lift restrictions on coal burning.
– But the cost of a 2.7F rise would be much greater to world economies, costing the globe an estimated $54 trillion by 2040.
The New York Times reports that the report has already been disputed by the World Coal Association, which said that a forecast from the International Energy Agency continues "to see a role for coal for the foreseeable future."
American for Prosperity, which if funded by the Koch Brothers, also came out against a carbon tax, calling them "political poison because they increase gas prices and electric rates,” the newspaper notes.
But Panmao Zhai, the co-chair of the IPCC working group, said the world is already seeing the consequences of global warming since 1850, since when global temperatures have risen by 1C or 1.8F.
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” he said.