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SMC Bulletin – Limiting warming to 1.5C

Press Release – Science Media Centre

Limiting warming to 1.5C The world needs to get to net zero carbon by 2050 to avoid warming by more than 1.5C, according to the IPCC.Limiting warming to 1.5C
The world needs to get to net zero carbon by 2050 to avoid warming by more than 1.5C, according to the IPCC.

The latest special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Global Warming of 1.5C – was released in South Korea on Monday following a week-long approval session.

The report found that limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward was the lead author for the report’s fifth chapter. She said it marked “the end of ‘magical thinking’ about climate change”.

Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, Jim Skea, said limiting warming to 1.5C “is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes”. Overshooting that target would mean greater reliance on techniques to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, which is unproven at large scale.

“The report makes clear that without unprecedented cuts to emissions now, we will have fewer opportunities to develop sustainably and will be required to rely increasingly on unproven, risky and possibly socially undesirable technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere in the future,” Dr Hayward said.

“But to avoid climate warming above 1.5C, we have to scale up action in unprecedented ways across all sectors of our economy and everyday life, over the next 10 years.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor James Renwick said the report made for “sobering reading”.

“We are currently living with 1C of global warming and we’re seeing effects already in extreme events and impacts on ecosystems and societies worldwide. More warming, even half a degree, means more and bigger impacts, but it is clear that a 1.5C world would be a lot more manageable and recognisable than a 2C world.”

NIWA climate scientist Dr Jonny Williams, who was a reviewer of the report, said it was important to emphasise that rising air temperature was just one aspect of climate change, alongside effects like ocean acidification.

“When it comes to the risks to humans from climate change, sadly it is often the people who are least able to take action who will be affected the most,” he said.

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

Quoted: NZ Herald
“While scientific evidence may point to a certain solution, the public might not be ready for it because of other factors including emotional or cultural issues.

“It’s up to the politicians to weigh those up.”
Primer Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard on the dos and don’ts of advising politicians on science.

Mice with same-sex parents
Researchers from China have bred healthy mice with two mums (and no dad) that went on to have normal pups of their own.

The feat was achieved by altering stem cells from a female mouse and injecting them into the eggs of another.

The researchers were examining what makes it so challenging for mammals of the same sex to reproduce and found that some of these barriers can be overcome using stem cells and targeted gene editing.

The authors note that there are still obstacles to using these methods in other mammals.

The University of Auckland’s Teresa Holm, a research fellow, with the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, said theresearch marked an important advance in fatherless or motherless offspring efforts.

“In the long-term, this knowledge may help researchers improve assisted reproductive technologies for infertile couples where disturbances in imprinting may contribute to the health of artificially fertilised embryos.

“It may even lead to the development of ways for same sex couples to reproduce healthy children of their own.”

She pointed out the work was done in mice and involved serious genetic modification in embryos, which left “significant ethical and safety concerns” that would need to be tackled before it could ever leave the lab.

Dr Tim Hore, from Otago’s Department of Anatomy said the work, while interesting and unique, was “unlikely to be useful in humans – for now”.

“In order for same-sex parents to both have genetic contributions to their children in an assisted reproduction setting, it is likely another technological leap will be required.”

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

Govt’s freshwater agenda
On Monday, the Government released a blueprint for its freshwater agenda, which set out key objectives for improving water quality over the next two years.
Jointly released by Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, the policy is designed to be implemented by 2020, with the promise of an improvement in water quality within five years.
This will include a range of changes, including controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices, making sure wetlands and estuaries are better protected and ensuring a focus on at-risk catchments to halt the decline, the NZ Herald reported.
Minster Parker said clean water is a birthright for Kiwis, and children should be able to put their heads under in our local rivers and lakes “without getting crook”.
“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

He told radio show The Country, the plan was not an attempt to outlaw farming, but rather ensure New Zealand’s agricultural image thrives.

“We’re not going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, but the colour of the egg has to be clean.”
A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard will be in place by 2020. He said the ambitious timeline demonstrated the Government’s intentions, but others felt getting agreement to the proposed changes would not be easy, Newsroom reported.

University of Waikato Professor of lake and freshwater science Troy Baisden said success will require innovation more than new science, given the timeframe, but hoped the policy would succeed where the Land and Water Forum failed.
“There were 218 recommendations across four Land and Water Forum reports, yet only 21 were fully implemented – less than 10 percent. Worse, over 50 percent of recommendations were not implemented at all.”

Dr Stewart Cameron, head of geohydrology at GNS Science, said this was the sort of paradigm shift the country needed to reverse current freshwater quality trends.

“It’s a ‘round one’ win for the environment, but there are many more rounds to go … For this agenda to be achievable, the emphasis in economic gains at the expense of the environment will need to change.”
The SMC gathered expert reaction on the report.

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