Climate change: Germany says time is ‘running out’ to save planet

Climate change: Germany says time is 'running out' to save planet
Parts of Germany, including Bad Münstereifel, were devastated in the floods. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini
The latest climate science report shows that time is running out to rescue Earth, Germany's environment minister said Monday, urging the international community to ramp up efforts to cope with the impact of climate change.

The sobering study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on Monday, warns that people will face more extreme weather, such as increasing number of heatwaves, droughts and flooding due to the effects of global warming.

However, scientists say there is still time to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid a catastrophe.

It comes after Germany experienced severe deadly flooding that claimed the lives of more than 180 people and devastated communities. 

“The report makes it clear that we can no longer avoid many of the consequences of climate change today – we can only prepare and adapt to them as best as we can,” said German environment minister Svenja Schulze, pointing to the deadly floods that struck western Germany in July as an example of the result of global warming.

“There have already been enough wake-up calls and appeals,” the SPD politician said in Berlin. “The IPCC report presented today shows us once again that time is running out to save the planet as we know it.”

READ ALSO: How the extreme flooding in Germany is linked to global warming

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What does the report say – and what does it mean for Germany?

The IPCC said in no uncertain terms that peoples’ behaviour is affecting the planet massively. The report said it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.

Unless there is a reduction in emissions, the global mean temperature will reach a level of at least 1.5C above that of the pre-industrial era in the next 20 years, said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, of the working group for the IPCC.

The 1.5C target is in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, with nations aiming to keep global warming well below 2C compared to pre-industrial levels (1850-1900). So far, the earth’s surface temperature has risen by around 1.1C across the planet, with regional differences. According to the German Weather Service (DWD), the average temperature has already risen by 1.6C in Germany compared to 1881. 

READ ALSO: Why have the floods in Europe been so deadly?

Scientists say that the 2C target can only be achieved with immediate and far-reaching climate protection measures.

That means climate neutrality will have to be achieved by about 2050-2070, they say. Germany aims to become climate neutral by 2045.

“If we don’t bring down emissions fast enough and reach net-zero by about 2050-2070, we will miss both Paris climate targets,” said IPCC co-author Douglas Maraun of the University of Graz.

The report said that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years, and that this is “already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe”.

It also found that the past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850, while experts said human influence is “very likely” the main driver of the global erosion of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice.

Even if we succeed in achieving climate neutrality by 2050-2070, sea levels at the end of the century are likely to be up to 62 centimetres higher than in 1995-2014, the report said.

“In the Arctic, three-quarters of the sea ice volume has already melted in summer,” said co-author Dirk Notz of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. “We probably won’t be able to prevent the Arctic Ocean from being largely ice-free in summer by 2050, at least in some years.”

The report comes ahead of a key climate summit in November – known as COP26 – being held in Glasgow, Scotland.

It was written by more than 230 scientists from 66 countries. The summary for policymakers was unanimously endorsed by the 195 IPCC member countries. “Governments are all in the same boat so no one can say afterwards – I had nothing to do with it,” said Jochem Marotzke of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.


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