GENEVA - A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns the world is heating up faster than predicted. If the pace of global warming is not scaled back drastically, the panel says climate-related risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development will escalate to dangerous, unreversable levels.
Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report global warming since pre-industrial times already has exceeded one degree Celsius. At the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, it says the the level of warming will reach 1.5 degrees during the next few decades.
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 escalate the number of natural disasters, accelerate the melting of the Arctic sea ice, cause islands to disappear under rising seas, and make it impossible to produce enough food to feed the world's growing population.
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says there is still time for people to change their behavior to keep carbon emissions from rising. He says preventing the global temperature from going up by one half degree 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," said Taalas. "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 recommends several actions governments and individuals can take to lower the world's temperature. He says fossil fuels, which are the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, must be phased out.
He says solar power, hydro power, wind power and other forms of so-called green energy are available to meet peoples' energy needs. He says more emphasis should be placed on using electric powered public and private modes of transportation.
He tells VOA people can help save the planet by changing their lifestyles. He points to diet as one area that could lessen the problem.
"For example, the fact that we eat so much meat means that we are using a fairly large fraction of our agriculture for the cattle instead of for using vegetarian food that would be more carbon friendly," said Taalas.
Taalas says governments have a 30-year window in which to stop using fossil energy and limiting global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. He says this is not impossible, but agrees that it is a major challenge.