Horror maps pinpoint EXACTLY where on earth people will die first from climate change

COP26: Barack Obama addresses lack of climate change action

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Climate change has dominated headlines recently as the COP26 summit continues and the world wakes up to the immeasurable task ahead to get global warming under control. Now, the Met Office has published research showing that around one billion people on earth will be affected by extreme heat stress if the global temperature rise reaches 2C.

A major focus of COP26 has been to double down on world leaders’ promises to commit to a 1.5C limit on global warming.

But this goal is in jeopardy, with climate scientists saying the world will almost inevitably “overshoot” 1.5C, the most ambitious goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries formally aimed to limit warming to “well below” 2C while “pursuing efforts” for 1.5C

If the target is overshot, experts say the consequences will be catastrophic and fatal.

On Tuesday, the Met Office published research showing that numbers of people in regions across the world affected by extreme heat stress – a potentially fatal combination of heat and humidity – could increase nearly 15-fold if the world’s temperature rise reaches 2C.

If a 2C rise occurs, the Met Office said “the number of people living in areas affected by extreme heat stress rises from 68 million today to around one billion”.

Extreme heat stress is similar to heatstroke, and can be fatal for vulnerable, young or old people, as well as those with physical, outdoor jobs.

This is measured by gauging temperature and humidity, and is indicated using something called wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) – WBGT above 32.0°C is defined as “extreme risk”.

Prof Richard Betts MBE, of the University of Exeter and Met Office, said: “This new combined analysis shows the urgency of limiting global warming to well below 2.0C.

“The higher the level of warming, the more severe and widespread the risks to people’s lives, but it is still possible to avoid these higher risks if we act now.”

Dr Andy Wiltshire, Head Earth System and Mitigation Science, added: “Any one of the climate impacts presents a scary vision of the future.

“But, of course, severe climate change will drive many impacts, and our maps show that some regions will be affected by multiple factors.

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“Perhaps unsurprisingly, parts of the tropics are most affected with countries like Brazil and Ethiopia potentially facing impacts from four of the hazards.

“Rapid emission reductions are required if we are to avoid worst consequences of unmitigated climate change.”

But the picture looks fairly bleak. Johan Rockström, director of the Germany-based Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “Overshoot is very likely unavoidable.”

Deep cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels – twinned with mass plantings of trees that soak up carbon, and novel technologies for extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – could eventually turn down the global thermostat.

Mr Rockström said the Earth might be able to tolerate a brief overshoot before irreversible changes set in, such as the meltdown of Antarctica’s ice sheet or mass collapse of coral reefs. He added: “Every tenth of a degree matters.”

On the COP26 conference’s website, the main goal listed by Britain is to “secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted at the start of the summit: “Let’s keep 1.5 alive #COP26”. He has not defined what it means by “within reach” or “alive”.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in August that the 1.5C goal is likely to be breached in the period 2021-2040, even with steep cuts in emissions.

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