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New Global Report Warns Of Climate Change Consequences


The U.N.'s International - the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is out with a landmark and worrying new report. It calls for urgent action to get climate change under control and warns of dire consequences if we fail. Jim Skea is the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group, and he's a professor at Imperial College London. He's with us now from South Korea where this report was released. Good morning, Mr. Skea.

JIM SKEA: Good morning.

KING: The timeline in this report is really sobering. Can you talk about what you found?

SKEA: Yeah. I mean, the - what we were asked to do by governments was to produce a report that answered two homework questions. One was, what would be the impacts of global warming of 1 1/2 degrees compared with global warming of 2 degrees? And then the second part of it was what you would need to do to get down emissions and what kind of changes to society, technology would be needed to achieve that kind of goal. And, you know, there's a very - two very strong messages out of it. One is that there are a big difference in terms of the impacts of climate change at 1.5 and 2 degrees, and the other one is that we really need quite radical changes to the amount of emissions we have globally. And basically, we can't wait to act. If we wait to act too long, the goal of 1.5 degrees would pass beyond reach.

KING: May I ask how long is too long?

SKEA: Well, the pledges that countries made after the Paris Agreement three years ago stretched out to 2030.


SKEA: And we really need action in that time. And there's a very clear message that the pledges that countries may have made are not enough. If we just follow these pledges, we're on track to something like 3 degrees warming, not the 1.5 degrees that governments asked us to look at.

KING: So we need more than what has been agreed upon, more than the nations that have set goals aimed at limiting warming of the planet have said. I mean, are you hopeful that that's going to happen?

SKEA: Well, that's really up to the governments. I mean, this report started with the governments. They invited the scientists to tell them about this because the Paris Agreement said, we're going to pursue efforts towards 1.5 degrees. And all that we can do as scientists is present them with the evidence and the facts. If that's what you want to do, this is what it implies. And the report does indeed have a very strong message. I mean, we - you know, given the evidence available, we couldn't pull our punches in the messages. It needs really, really radical changes in terms of emissions reduction if you're going to avoid all the climate change impacts that go with warming beyond 1.5 degrees.

KING: Very briefly in the minute or so we have left, what is the difference? 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees don't sound like a very - it doesn't sound like there's a big difference between the two. Why shoot for 1.5 degrees?

SKEA: The reason that it matters is that we started in the preindustrial period in the middle of the 19th century, and that is where we started from. We've got to 1 degree today. We're looking at 1 1/2 degrees. We're - the temperatures are rising at about a fifth of a degree a decade. And very, very soon, we're going to pass through that 1.5 threshold. So we basically need to act now if we're going to have a hope of keeping to 1.5.

KING: All right, Jim Skea of the IPCC, thank you.

SKEA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF OLAFUR ARNALDS' "HANDS, BE STILL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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