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What the new report on climate change expects from you

What the new report on climate change expects from you

(CNN) - A stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change calls on individuals, as well as governments, to take action to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.The repo ... Continue Reading
Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

(CNN) - Governments around the world must take "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, says a stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change.

The report issued Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

The date, which falls well within the lifetime of many people alive today, is based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The planet is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. Avoiding going even higher will require significant action in the next few years.

"This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5 degrees C global warming, including more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes," Andrew King, a lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement.

Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C.

Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities, the report says.

"The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal," added King.

Consequences of past inaction

The report makes it clear that climate change is already happening -- and what comes next could be even worse, unless urgent international political action is taken.

"One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.

Even if warming is kept at or just below 1.5 degrees C, the impacts will be widespread and significant.

Temperatures during summer heatwaves, such as those just experienced across Europe this summer, can be expected to increase by 3 degrees C says the report.

More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that nearly ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfall events such as hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are also pointed to as expectations as we reach the warming threshold.

Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90% expected to die off, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Countries in the southern hemisphere will be among the worse off, the report said, "projected to experience the largest impacts on economic growth due to climate change should global warming increase."

The report underlines how even the smallest increase in the base target would worsen the impact of recent natural disasters.

"Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 degrees C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

The report cites specific examples of how impacts of global warming would be lessened with the 1.5 degrees C increase, compared to the 2 degrees C increase:

Global sea levels would rise 10 cm lower by 2100.

The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century, instead of at least once per decade.

Coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% instead of being almost completely wiped out.

'Possible with the laws of chemistry and physics'

Monday's report is three years in the making and is a direct result of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In the Paris accord, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C.

The United States was initially in the agreement, but President Donald Trump pulled the country out a year and half later, claiming it was unfair to the country.

To limit global warming to 1.5 degree C is "possible within the laws of chemistry and physics," said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. "But doing so would require unprecedented changes."

"International cooperation is absolutely imperative to limit emissions and therefore global warming and its impacts, as well as coordinating effective and widespread adaptation and mitigation," said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a fellow at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales. "The next few years will be critical in the evolution of these efforts."

One key issue will be negative emissions, large scale carbon-scrubbing technologies that can reduce the amount in the atmosphere and act to counter continued pollution.

According to the report, there are two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere: increasing natural processes that already do this, and experimental carbon storage or removal technologies.

However, all methods "are at different stages of development and some are more conceptual than others, as they have not been tested at scale," the report warned.

They will also require considerable political engagement globally, as will reducing the amount of carbon being emitted. Despite the report's dire warnings, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration's stance on this issue.

"Today the world's leading scientific experts collectively reinforced what mother nature has made clear -- that we need to undergo an urgent and rapid transformation to a global clean energy economy," former US Vice President Al Gore said.

"Unfortunately, the Trump administration has become a rogue outlier in its shortsighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. The administration is in direct conflict with American businesses, states, cities and citizens leading the transformation."

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(CNN) - The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years, and for only the third time in its history.

Donna Strickland, a Canadian physicist, was awarded the 2018 prize jointly with Gérard Mourou, from France, for their work on generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. They share the award with an American, Arthur Ashkin, who at 96 becomes the oldest Nobel Laureate, for developing "optical tweezers."

Both inventions had "revolutionized laser physics," the Royal Swedish Academy said.

The announcement comes a day after a senior scientist at CERN, the Geneva-based nuclear research center that is home to a number of Nobel winners, was suspended for saying that physics was invented and built by men.

Strickland said the achievements of women scientists deserved recognition. "We need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there. I'm honored to be one of those women," Strickland said by video link at a news conference following the announcement in Stockholm.

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, recognized for her co-discovery of radiation, followed by Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 for discoveries about nuclear structure.

Strickland she said she thought there might have been more than three physics laureates, adding: "Hopefully, in time, it will start to move forward at a faster rate."

Strickland and Mourou's development of very short and intense laser pulses, known as "chirped pulse amplification," have made it possible to cut or drill holes in materials and living matter incredibly precisely. The technology they pioneered has led to corrective eye operations for millions of people.

While Ashkin's optical tweezers may sound stranger than science fiction, they make it possible for scientists to hold, observe and move tiny objects with "laser beam fingers." That means laboratories can examine and manipulate viruses, bacteria and other living cells without damaging them.

"Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications," the Nobel organizers wrote on prize's Twitter feed.

Each of the six Nobel prizes come with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor (roughly $1 million), which can be shared by as many as three recipients. Strickland and Mourou will take half of the 2018 award, and Ashkin the other half.

According to the academy, Ashkin was so busy with his latest scientific paper that he might not be available for interviews.

Alfred Nobel created five prizes in his 1895 will for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace. A sixth prize in economics was created, in Nobel's memory, by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

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LONDON (CNN) - It was a day in which Brett Kavanaugh did himself few favors. After the US Supreme Court nominee's hearing on Thursday, even commentators on Fox News portrayed him as an aggressor with, as one said, "guns blazing" -- the very opposite characterization the judge had hoped to achieve.

That was not only their assessment as they watched as Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, detail her allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh in their high school days.

Media around the world has also zoomed in on Kavanaugh's performance, with British news organizations in particular ridiculing Kavanaugh for his repeated denials of having high school drinking habits, and for unconvincingly painting a picture of his past as a conscientious student too consumed with sports to have time for women.

In the Opinion section of the Guardian, Marina Hyde wrote a satirical re-imagination of the hearing, in which she mocked Kavanaugh for his performance, including his moment of crying.

"I cannot stress how absolutely irrelevant things that happened in high school are. They are irrelevant, and meaningless. Do you know how much I worked out at Tobin's house during high school? Do you know what I could bench press in high school?" she wrote, in a caricature of Kavanaugh.

The Economist took a more serious tone and criticized Kavanaugh's lack of judgement and his "hostility towards the left," saying it "would would make him an exceptionally divisive addition to the court."

"Based on the day's hearings, the justice committee should not vote to support Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation," it wrote.

French TV editor: Kavanaugh 'deserves an Oscar'

In France, BFMTV's diplomatic editor, Ulysse Gosset, said of Kavanaugh's performance: "He deserves an Oscar because in reality he's on shaky ground."

In a commentary piece for Germany's Zeit Online, Carsten Luther criticized the entire hearing as a partisan "spectacle" in which senators had failed on several counts, including to take Ford's sex assault allegations seriously while giving Kavanaugh the presumption of innocence.

"Political operations in Washington have reached that point where senators can meet the current US president on an equal footing: at the bottom," Luther wrote.

"On Thursday, millions of Americans could follow live something that looked like a search for truth, but only on the surface. It was not about taking the alleged victim of a sexual assault seriously while maintaining the presumption of innocence against the alleged perpetrator until the opposite could be proved. Power and the fear of losing it were the motivations for the spectacle, which, playing out over hours, showed what divides this country."

The US has 'been here before'

Matthew Knott from Australia's Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that Thursday's hearing was a little bit of "history repeating."

The United States had experienced a similar moment 27 years ago, he wrote, when Anita Hill was questioned by an all-male panel on her allegations of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

In 1991, Thomas said: "This is a circus. It's a national disgrace," Knott wrote.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh made almost the exact same comments. "This is a circus," he said. "This confirmation process has become a national disgrace."

Knott criticized the senators for descending into "an all-out partisan brawl" and questioned why the FBI would not be asked to investigate the allegations and key witnesses won't testify.

"That makes possible one of two unpalatable outcomes.

"Either a female survivor of sexual assault who bravely went public with her story will, yet again, be disbelieved. Or an innocent man will have his career shredded by unproven claims not supported by corroborating evidence."

Repercussions far beyond the US

In a blog for the magazine Marie Claire in South Africa, Zoya Pon called on South African women to take note of the Kavanaugh case, stressing that it would have implications for women in her own country and abroad.

"The outcome of the case will inevitably ripple internationally, affecting many things -- not limited to -- how we react to, vote, prosecute, and speak about the sexual violence affecting us politically, socially and legally."

In a column for South Africa's News 24, Serjeant at the Bar, who writes on legal issues, pointed to the lack of progress in addressing sexual misconduct allegations since Anita Hill's testimony in 1991.

"If the US has hardly progressed in being earnest about alleged sexual impropriety since the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, can it be said that the legal profession in this country has transformed itself from the white male club which has been operative since the dawn of the profession in South Africa?"

"How many male lawyers would still say, 'You cannot take seriously that which Judge Kavanaugh did when he was a student?'"

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