Act now! UN warns of climate catastrophe

Hothouse: A heat map of Earth this summer, when wildfires raged and global temperatures soared.

Can global warming be stopped? In a dramatic new study, scientists claim that humanity has just 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate change. They call for immediate and urgent action.

What’s happening

This week, the United Nations (UN) released a landmark report on climate change. It warned that the world must go through “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. We have just 12 years to make it happen.

Find out more

Over the last 100 years or so, the average global temperature has risen by around 1C. This may not sound like a lot, but scientists say it is already melting ice caps and making natural disasters worse. If nothing changes, temperatures will rise more than 1.5C by 2030. Three years ago, world leaders pledged to stop that from happening.

Failure would be disastrous. Warming of more than 2C would kill 99% of coral reefs; rising sea levels would devastate coastal towns; and the Arctic would be totally ice-free one summer in every 10.

This can still be avoided — but it will be hard. Carbon dioxide emissions will have to fall by almost half in just 12 years. That means electric cars, renewable energy and planting millions of trees. Is it possible?

Some say…

No. Slowing down global warming would need everyone in the whole world to work together at a time when politics is extremely divided. According to two experts, doing it all in 12 years will be “harder, and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the Moon all together.”

Others think…

We have to try anyway. Scientifically it is still possible and the UN report will be a wake-up call to politicians and ordinary people. Everyone can play their part, whether that means eating less meat or planting more trees. As the same experts from above put it: “If the human species specialises in one thing, it’s taking on the impossible.”

You Decide

  1. Is it too late to prevent climate change?

Activities

  1. As a class, write down all of the ways you can think of that normal people can help fight climate change. Out of all of them, which do you think would make the most difference? Why? Is it something you would be willing to do?

Some People Say...

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem.”

Former President Barack Obama

What do you think?

Word Watch

Landmark
An important turning point.
Climate change
Changes to the Earth’s weather and temperature.
Unprecedented
Never done before.
Devastate
Destroy.
Carbon dioxide
A gas that is produced when burning fossil fuels (like coal). It traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, like a greenhouse. It can be absorbed by plants.
Renewable energy
Power which comes from something that will never run out. (For example, wind or solar power.)
Improbable
Unlikely.
Specialises
Is good at.

Subjects

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