MP calls for surcharge on all single-use bags, except those used for fresh produce

LOUISA TANG Today Online 2 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE — Consumers should pay for single-use carrier bags made of all materials — not only plastic — but bags used to carry fresh produce should be exempted from any charge, Mr Louis Ng said on Monday (Oct 1).

In this way, consumers will still have some free bags for binning their trash, but fewer plastic bags will be consumed overall.

Mr Ng, who is Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC), cautioned that the issue of plastic waste has “reached a turning point”.

“If we don’t do anything about it, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050,” he said in an adjournment motion in Parliament.

The Government will continue to monitor developments on this front, replied Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources.

In March, the authorities said that it would not impose a charge on plastic bags, adding that substituting them with other types of disposable bags, such as paper ones, may not be better for the environment in Singapore’s case.

Paper and biodegradable bags may require as much resources to produce and have a similar environmental impact, as waste here is incinerated before going to the landfill and not left to decay, Dr Khor said at the time.

The British government estimated that a cotton tote bag must be used 173 times before its greenhouse gas emission impact improves beyond the plastic bags we use to line our bins, Dr Khor said on Monday.

The issue of charging consumers for plastic bags has been the subject of animated debate for years in Singapore.

On Mr Ng’s proposed approach — which is what Hong Kong has done — Dr Khor said it complicates the system and makes enforcement more difficult. Some reports have stated that non-compliance by retailers in Hong Kong is about one-third to half, she said.

Mr Ng noted that there are critics of what Hong Kong is doing. “But at least Hong Kong is trying, and I’d rather be optimistic and say, not bad, 50 per cent of retailers are compliant, good start,” he said.

Charging for carrier bags has been effective in cutting usage, he said. Lifestyle brand Miniso reported a drop of 75 per cent in customers’ plastic-bag usage after its stores began charging 10 cents for every such bag last year.

“This throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained… Even when I take my own reusable bag to the supermarket, the cashier sometimes puts my groceries first into a plastic bag, and then into my reusable bag,” Mr Ng said.


In his speech, Mr Ng also urged the public sector to take the lead in reducing plastic waste. At this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), the fun pack contained “many plastic items individually wrapped in more plastic”, and each person received a plastic bag for waste items.

“If NDP 2019 were to use only reusable items with minimal packaging, it would send a strong signal that our nation is committed to building a sustainable world,” he said.

Dr Khor said public agencies have a best-practice guide on organising environment-friendly events. Her ministry does not serve bottled water at its meetings, for example.

However, major events such as the NDP may not be able to “do away entirely” with items such as bottled water because of the large number of people present.

In order to tackle packaging waste on a larger scale, Dr Khor announced that businesses will have to report the type and amount of packaging they put on the market and their plans for reduction by 2020, a year earlier than previously said.

The Government is also studying whether it is feasible to impose collection targets on businesses that use or produce packaging, through the Extended Producer Responsibility approach for packaging waste. A third of domestic waste comes from packaging.

More details on the initiatives will be released in the inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan, to be launched next year.

Plastic waste and marine plastics are a growing problem worldwide, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. A recent study found 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 tonnes now floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii.

Mr Ng added that Singapore is tackling symptoms of the problem, but Dr Khor disagreed and said the Government’s measures deal with the root cause of marine pollution.

She said: “Marine pollution is caused by improper disposal of plastic waste, and not the use of plastics per se."

The Government will continue addressing the issue of marine plastics pollution through “stringent anti-littering measures, educating the public against littering and excessive consumption of plastics, and introducing regulatory measures to minimise plastic and packaging waste upstream”.

“We will not hesitate to legislate where necessary. But we will do so by taking a pragmatic and considered approach that suits our local context,” Dr Khor said.

Charging for carrier bags one way to rid Singapore of 'throwaway culture': Louis Ng
Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 1 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament Louis Ng has proposed that charging for single-use carrier bags - regardless of the material they are made of - be enforced and that the public sector reviews its waste generation practices, as he called on Singapore to take the lead in reducing plastic waste.

Raising an adjournment motion in Parliament on Monday (Oct 1), Mr Ng described the plastic waste problem as an "urgent public safety issue" that must be addressed.

"Plastic can no longer be seen as just an environmental problem," he said. "It is a danger to the health of our ecosystems and to our own health."

Citing 2016 statistics, Mr Ng pointed out that Singapore discarded 27 billion plastic bags, an average of 13 bags per person per day.

"This throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained," he said. "Even when I bring my own reusable bag to the supermarket, the cashier sometimes puts my groceries first into a plastic bag, and then into my reusable bag. We really need to start thinking about our plastic bag use."

Emphasising the need for a "plastic-lite" Singapore, Mr Ng said that enforcing a carrier bag charge policy would be one way to drastically reduce the demand for plastic.

Citing the example of IKEA Singapore which applied a 10 cent bag charge in 2007 and stopped offering disposable bags six years later, Mr Ng said that a levied fee can be a step towards eliminating the use of all disposable plastic items.

But some exemptions can be made, he said.

"Using reusable bags to carry fresh produce, raw meat or seafood may be unhygienic, so plastic bags should be given out for such items," Mr Ng proposed.

"In this way, people can still obtain some bags to bin their trash, maintaining the cleanliness and safety of our rubbish chutes and waste disposal system."

Calling for a stronger emphasis on reduction rather than recycling, Mr Ng urged the Government to "walk the talk and lead by example" by encouraging ministries and agencies to eliminate single-use plastics from their catering and events.

Using reusable items with only minimal packaging for next year's National Day Parade (NDP), for instance, is one way this can be done, suggested Mr Ng.

"This year’s NDP fun pack contained many plastic items individually wrapped in plastic, and even an NDP 2018 plastic bag for each person to bag their waste," he said.

"If NDP 2019 were to use only reusable items with minimal packaging, it would send a strong signal that our nation is committed to building a sustainable world for all Singaporeans."


In her response to Mr Ng's speech, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said that managing plastics and packaging waste is one of the "key priorities" for her ministry.

"My ministry believes the long-term approach is to engage Singaporeans on the importance of sustainability," said Dr Khor.

"Hence, our aim is to build a national consciousness to care for the environment so that Singaporeans and businesses will take action, even beyond what the regulations require.

"This process may take longer. But this is the right way; the positive effects will go beyond plastic bags, beyond packaging, beyond waste management to areas including climate action."

Dr Khor pointed out even as her ministry seeks to reduce plastic usage, it recognises that plastics have their uses.

"Substituting them with other materials may not be more environmentally friendly as some may perceive," she said. "Hence, our approach is to reduce excessive consumption of all types of packaging, including plastics used by businesses and individuals."

Agreeing that the public sector should set the standard, Dr Khor added that her ministry has published a guide to aid agencies in organising environmentally-friendly events.

"I am happy to share that my ministry is definitely taking the lead. We do not serve bottled water for meetings. Our staff bring their own plates and cutlery for events to avoid the use of disposables," she said.

"We are encouraging other public sector agencies to do the same for their meetings and events such as the National Day Parade and community activities to minimise the use of plastics."

In response to Mr Ng's suggestion on the carrier bag charge, she said the ministry will continue to monitor developments.

Source: CNA/mt(ra)

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Sunk costs: Airports taking action against rising seas, storms as climate changes

Jamie Freed Reuters 1 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Global airport operators, faced with rising sea levels and more powerful storms as the climate changes, are starting to invest in measures including higher runways, seawalls and better drainage systems to future-proof immovable assets.

In early September, a seawall at Japan’s Kansai International Airport built on a reclaimed island near Osaka, was breached during Typhoon Jebi.

The runway was flooded and it took 17 days to fully restore airport operations, at a high cost to the region’s economy as well as the dozens of airlines that canceled flights.

Major airports in Hong Kong, mainland China and North Carolina were also closed due to tropical storms last month.

Such incidents highlight the disaster risks to investors and insurers exposed to a sector with an estimated $262 billion of projects under construction globally, according to Fitch Solutions.

“There is a kind of one-way direction with regards to the frequency and severity of climate change-related events,” said Fitch Solutions Head of Infrastructure Richard Marshall. “If people aren’t taking that seriously, that is a risk.”

Fifteen of the 50 most heavily trafficked airports globally are at an elevation of less than 30 feet above sea level, making them particularly vulnerable to a changing climate, including rising sea levels and associated higher storm surges.

“You see it at individual airports that are already seeing sea rise and are already dealing with water on their runway,” Airports Council International (ACI) Director General Angela Gittens said, citing examples in island nations including Vanuatu and the Maldives.

“But even in some of these mature economies they are having more storms, they are having to do more pumping. My old airport in Miami is in that scenario.”

A draft copy of an ACI policy paper reviewed by Reuters and due to be released this week warns of the rising risks to facilities from climate change. It encourages member airports to conduct risk assessments, develop mitigation measures and take it into account in future master plans.

The paper cites examples of forward-thinking airports that have taken climate change into account in planning, such as the $12 billion Istanbul Grand Airport on the Black Sea, set to become one of the world’s largest airports when it opens next month.


Debt investors in particular have high exposure to airports, most of which are owned by governments or pension funds. Ratings agency Moody’s alone has $174 billion of airport bonds under coverage.

Earl Heffintrayer, the lead analyst covering U.S. airports at Moody’s, said the risk of climate change became apparent to investors after Superstorm Sandy closed major New York airports for days in 2012.

Sandy led to the cancellation of nearly 17,000 flights, costing airlines $500 million in revenues and disrupting operations around the world, according to a 2017 presentation by Eurocontrol on climate change risk.

Investors are increasingly asking about mitigation plans at low-lying airports like San Francisco and Boston as they look to invest in bonds with terms of up to 30 years, Heffintrayer said.

San Francisco International Airport, built on reclaimed land that is slowly sinking, has completed a feasibility study on a $383 million project to make the airport more resilient to sea level rises on its 8 miles (12.9 km) of bay front shoreline by 2025.

“We are seeing a lot more thought going into protection against flood damage, catastrophe, making sure that the storm drains around the airport are fit for purpose,” said Gary Moran, head of Asia aviation at insurance broker Aon. “There definitely is a lot more thought going into potential further worsening in weather conditions further down the line.”


Singapore’s Changi Airport [CHAP.UL], which has analyzed scenarios out to 2100, has resurfaced its runways to provide for better drainage and is building a new terminal at a higher 18 feet (5.5 meters) above sea level to protect against rising seas.

Moran said such steps were prudent and would provide comfort to insurers.

“If you were to look at Singapore, if something was to happen at Changi in terms of weather-related risk, Singapore would have a problem,” he said. “There isn’t really too much of an alternative.”

Singapore expects sea levels to rise by 2.5 feet (0.76 meter) by 2100. Changi Airport declined to comment on the cost of the extra protection.

ACI, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s were unable to provide Reuters with an estimate of the global cost of climate change protection at airports. The protective action is often folded into larger refurbishment and expansion projects, ratings agency analysts said.

In Australia, Brisbane Airport [BAIRP.UL] and located on reclaimed land on the coast at just 13 feet (4 meters) above sea level, is constructing a new runway 3.3 feet (1 meter) higher than it otherwise would have done, with a higher seawall and better drainage systems as sea levels rise.

Paul Coughlan, the director of Brisbane Airport’s new runway project, said the incremental cost of such moves was relatively low - for example the seawall cost around A$5 million ($3.6 million) more than without taking into account sea level rises - but the potential benefits were big.

“At the end of the day, whether you are a believer in climate change or a disbeliever, doing a design that accounts for elevated sea levels, more intense rainfall, flooding considerations, that is just prudent,” Coughlan said.

“If you build it into your design philosophy from day one, you don’t pay that much of a premium and you have bought a lot of safeguards.”

Reporting by Jamie Freed. Editing by Lincoln Feast

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Indonesia tsunami: Palu hit by 'worst case scenario'

Anna Jones BBC News 2 Oct 18;

Indonesia experiences earthquakes every day, but the scale of the quake and tsunami which hit Palu on Friday took local people and scientists by surprise.

More than 800 people have died, but the final figure could be in the thousands, say officials.

As scientists explained to the BBC, a combination of geography, timing and inadequate warnings meant that what happened in Palu was a worst case scenario.

A perilous location

Earthquakes are caused by the Earth's tectonic plates sliding against or under each other. This is happening constantly, but sometimes the movement is big enough and close enough to populated areas to have devastating consequences.

Small tremors had been happening throughout Friday in Palu, but in the early evening the Palu-Koru fault suddenly slipped, a short distance off shore and only 10km (6 miles) below the surface, generating a 7.5 magnitude quake.

Hamza Latief, from the Bandung Institute of Technology, has been studying the fault line since 1995 and says the impact of the quake was magnified by the thick layers of sediment on which the city sits.

Whereas rock just shakes in a quake, sediment moves around a lot more, essentially behaving like liquid. Few poorly built properties can withstand such movement.

"Any place where people have put buildings on fill - where they've dug dirt and moved it to another place - is not going to be as solid as bedrock," says Jess Phoenix, a US-based geologist who has studied Indonesia.

When it comes to quakes, she says, "those are the areas to worry about".

An unexpected wave

"You don't normally pay much attention to the Palu-Koru fault line, as far as tsunamis are concerned," says Prof Philip Liu Li-Fan at the National University of Singapore.

That's because the two plates are moving horizontally, not with the vertical thrust usually required to set off dangerous waves.

"We have been trying to figure out what was really going on," says Prof Liu.

It could be that the quake kicked off a landslide underwater, which in turn disturbed the water, he says, or there could be inaccuracies in describing the fault, but "we don't really know yet".

But once the wave started moving, Palu - at the end of a narrow 10km-long bay, was a sitting duck.

Tsunamis are no danger when out at sea. But when the waves come closer to land, their base drags on the seabed causing them to rise up.

Jess Phoenix said the geography and timing meant it was "basically a worst case scenario".

"When water comes into a horseshoe-shaped area like that, instead of the wave increasing just because the ocean is getting shallow, you also have the bowl effect, where the waves are going to reflect off the shoreline around it."

Mr Latief says the area has been hit by tsunamis before. Historical records show that in 1927, one wave was 3-4m at the mouth of the bay but had risen to 8m by the time it reached the town.

An ineffective warning system?

After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed a quarter of a million people, huge amounts of money were spent on an early warning system.

A complex system of sensors were installed across the region. These are meant to help scientists quickly assess whether a quake is likely to trigger a tsunami, and alert the public to move to higher ground.

The head of Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency has said that a key part of the country's warning system - a series of buoys connected to seafloor sensors designed to detect tsunamis - had not been working since 2012. He blamed a lack of funding.

Prof Liu says the system is "sort of working and sort of not working", and that Indonesia's focus has largely been its southern regions, which were so badly hit in 2004.

A tsunami warning was issued after the quake, but, says Jess Phoenix, "it'll be interesting to see what comes out about whether the warning was implemented correctly, whether people heard it".

It's not unusual for people to be killed by a tsunami because they stayed to look at the spectacle of the sea suddenly drawing back as the wave builds up. Since 2004, a huge amount of effort has gone into educating people to run inland if the water retreats.

One man told the BBC's Rebecca Henschke he saw the sea disappear and sent his family running to higher ground while he grabbed a nearby child and clung to a tree.

But despite the warning, it appears there were still lots of people on or near the beach in Palu, many of them setting up for a festival.

"People in that region are really familiar with what tsunami can do. I'm hopeful that if there were casualties on the beach they were trying to leave," said Ms Phoenix.

"But a 10ft wave is really substantial. To get everyone evacuated in a very short amount of time you have to have very clear egress routes marked.

"From my experience working in Indonesia, I didn't see super clearly marked egress routes. I'm not sure about that particular town, but it is really hard to get a large amount of people out of an area quickly."

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What does 1.5C mean in a warming world?

Matt McGrath BBC 2 Oct 18;

Over the past three years, climate scientists have shifted the definition of what they believe is the "safe" limit of climate change.

For decades, researchers argued the global temperature rise must be kept below 2C by the end of this century to avoid the worst impacts.

But scientists now argue that keeping below 1.5C is a far safer limit for the world.

Everyone agrees that remaining below that target will not be easy.

This week in South Korea, researchers will report on the feasibility and costs of achieving this lower limit.

The scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are gathering in the city of Incheon to hammer out a plan in co-operation with government delegates, on the actions that would need to be taken to meet this new goal.

So why has the goal changed?

In a word - politics.

The idea of two degrees as the safe threshold for warming evolved over a number of years from the first recorded mention by economist William Nordhaus in 1975.

By the mid 1990s, European ministers were signing up to the two-degree limit, and by 2010 it was official UN policy. Governments agreed in Cancun to "hold the increase in global average temperatures below two degrees".

However, small island states and low-lying countries were very unhappy with this perspective, because they believed it meant their territories would be inundated with sea water as higher temperatures caused more ice to melt and the seas to expand.

They commissioned research which showed that preventing temperatures from rising beyond 1.5C would give them a fighting chance.

At the ill-fated Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, the climate-vulnerable nations pushed for the lower figure, but their efforts were lost in the blame-game that followed the collapse of the conference.

But the idea didn't go away completely - and by the time of the Paris negotiations in 2015, it emerged centre-stage as French diplomats sought to build a broad coalition of rich and poor nations who would support a deal.

It worked.

What difference does half a degree actually make?

More than you might think!

Leaked drafts of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers that will be published after a week of haggling with government delegates in South Korea point to some major differences in terms of the impacts on the world of 1.5 and 2C. We've summarised the main ones here:

"Two degrees is no longer the two degrees we thought it was," said Kaisa Kosonen from Greenpeace who is monitoring the progress of the IPCC 1.5C report.

"It's increasingly becoming meaningless as a climate goal, when you look at the risks that would come with it and what we are already witnessing with one degree - why would you have a goal that doesn't protect anything that we care about?"

How hard will it be to keep below the limit?
Very - the world has already warmed by around one degree and according to leaked drafts of the 1.5 report, we will sail past that limit by around 2040.

The new IPCC report won't tell governments what to do but will instead set out a range of approaches that will likely involve heavy cuts in carbon emissions, a rapid transition to renewable energy and lifestyle and dietary changes as well.

What happens if we go beyond 1.5?

The IPCC have spent a lot of time considering that question and have devised a cunning plan!

In their draft reports they talk about "overshoot", meaning that in many scenarios they expect temperatures to go beyond 1.5 but they believe they can be clawed back below the limit by using a range of technologies that will remove carbon dioxide from the air - these range from planting trees to more complex, untested machines.

Some experts, though, believe that there are considerable risks to this approach.

"A species that goes extinct at two degrees will still be extinct if you come back down to 1.5C," said Dr Steven Cornelius from WWF, a former UK government IPCC negotiator.

"Some things may come back but some things are irreversible, in terms of taking a risk you'd want to try and keep below 1.5, and clearly that means faster, deeper earlier emissions cuts, and it probably means carbon dioxide removal. But these technologies - some of them we know what to do, but some are early days and need to be assessed."

Are there any hopeful signs?

Surprisingly, yes!

While the task of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C this century is massive, there are some indicators on the horizon that show that some governments are recognising the seriousness of the issue and are taking steps to deal with it.

Just a few days ago, the UK government committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 when it joined 18 other nations in the Carbon Neutrality Coalition.

Some environmentalists believe that the pathway to keeping temperatures down to 1.5 can be done without resorting to mechanical devices or planting billions of trees.

"If we have very rapid emissions reductions and couple that with massive scaling up of restoration of land and changes in our food system to reduce meat consumption, we can get to 1.5C in a way that creates lots of wellbeing for people," said Hannah Mowat from Fern.

"It creates better air and reduces levels of obesity. It's a world we want to say yes to, rather than a further industrialisation of our landscapes."

UN report spotlights government inaction on climate
Marlowe HOOD AFP Yahoo News 1 Oct 18;

Diplomats gathering in South Korea Monday will find themselves in the awkward position of vetting and validating a major UN scientific report that underscores the failure of their governments to take stronger action on climate.

The UN special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels began as a request from the 195 nations that inked the Paris Agreement in 2015.

That landmark pact called for capping the rise in global temperature to "well-below" 2C, and invited countries to submit voluntary national plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To the surprise of many -- especially scientists, who had based nearly a decade of research on the assumption that 2C was the politically acceptable guardrail for a climate-safe world -- the treaty also called for a good-faith effort to cap warming at the lower threshold.

At the same time, countries asked the UN's climate science authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to detail what a 1.5C world would look like, and how hard it might be to prevent a further rise in temperature.

Three years and many drafts later, the answer has come in the form of a 400-page report -- grounded in an assessment of 6,000 peer-reviewed studies -- that delivers a stark, double-barrelled message: 1.5C is enough to unleash climate mayhem, and the pathways to avoiding an even hotter world require a swift and complete transformation not just of the global economy, but of society too.

With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the world has seen a climate-enhanced crescendo of deadly heatwaves, wild fires and floods, along with superstorms swollen by rising seas.

- Line-by-line vetting -

"I don't know how you can possibly read this and find it anything other than wildly alarming," said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, referring to the draft Summary for Policy Makers.

Government representatives -- often the same ones in the trenches at UN climate negotiations -- will spend the entire week going through the 22-page executive summary, line-by-line.

With scientists at their elbow, they will check it against the underlying report and, if the past is any guide, attempt to blunt conclusions deemed inconvenient by their governments.

"Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have threatened to be obstructionist," said one of the report's authors.

China is said to have reservations on the chapters outlining policy options, concerned that some of the measures outlined may be too ambitious.

But the joker in the pack is the United States, several delates and observers noted.

"This is the first report coming up for approval since the Trump administration took office," said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, and an IPCC author on a another report-in-progress.

"That's a real wild card."

- US a 'wild card' -

There are few clues as to what the United States might say or do in Incheon, which has left a lot of people nervous.

"The US could, as they have in the past, support the science," said one contributing author.

"Or they could become obstructionist -- maybe Fox News will decide to shine a spotlight on the meeting."

A State Department spokesperson confirmed to AFP that veteran climate diplomat Trigg Talley will head the US delegation, a development one veteran IPCC author described as "reassuring."

"Never in the history of the IPCC has there been a report that is so politically charged," said Henri Waisman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, and one of the report's 86 authors.

Governments looking for a straightforward answer to the question of whether the 1.5C target can be reached are likely to be disappointed, he added.

"The report isn't going to simply say 'yes' or 'no'," he told AFP.

"Our goal was to put as much information as possible into the hands of policy makers so they can step up to their responsibilities."

Many scientists say the goal is feasible on paper, but would require political will and economic transformations that are not on the near-term horizon.

"In my view, 1.5C stabilisation is extremely difficult if not impossible at this point, while 2C stabilisation is an uphill challenge but doable," Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told AFP.

Climate changing faster than feared, but why are we surprised?
Marlowe HOOD AFP Yahoo News 5 Oct 18;

Incheon (South Korea) (AFP) - Nearly every day, peer-reviewed studies on global warming warn that deadly impacts will come sooner and hit harder than once thought.

Virtually none, however, suggest that previous predictions of future heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods or rising seas were overblown.

And so, as the world's nations huddle in South Korea to validate the first major UN assessment of climate science in five years, one might ask: have we underestimated the threat of global warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on capping the rise in Earth's surface temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels has not been finalised, with delegates predicting the five-day meet -- due to end Friday -- will go deep into overtime.

But a new draft of the 28-page summary for policymakers, obtained by AFP, makes it alarmingly clear that the two-degree ceiling long seen as the guardrail for a climate-safe world is no longer viable.

With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the planet is reeling from a crescendo of lethal and costly extreme weather events made worse by climate change.

"Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now," Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

"We thought we had more time, but we don't."

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement enjoins its nearly 200 signatories to hold warming to "well below" 2C -- and 1.5 degrees if possible, an aspirational goal that gave rise to the IPCC report.

- 'Short-termism' -

Many scientists point out that warnings of a climate-addled future date back decades.

The 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, for example, foresaw the possibility of "global and catastrophic effects" from a 2C jump in temperatures caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

"Many scientists have long known that human-induced climate change could have dire consequences," said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a professor of climatology at Universite Catholique de Louvain, and a former IPCC vice-chair.

"Those who have underestimated the severity of climate change are mostly policymakers."

Van Ypersele chalked up political inaction to "short-termism" -- election cycles trumping long-term issues -- and deliberate campaigns led by the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt about the validity of climate science.

But Wolfgang Cramer, research director at the Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology and a lead author of the IPCC report, disagreed.

"Scientists should be a bit more self-critical," he told AFP in Incheon. "Over the last 15-20 years, we have focused mostly on the impacts of a 2.5C, 3C and even 4C world."

"So when leaders asked, 'if we shoot for 1.5C, what will it take?', we could only answer: 'We don't really know'."

- Models inadequate -

Indeed, the vast majority of 200-odd climate models used to generate IPCC projections in its last major report, published in 2013, presumed a 2C benchmark. Only a handful even considered a 1.5C world.

And for good reason: Though loosely tethered to science, the 2C target emerged mostly from the political turmoil of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, and set the research agenda for nearly a decade.

Those earlier models were inadequate, said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

"Overly conservative, they failed to capture the full impacts of a warming planet on extreme weather events such as those that broke out across North America, Europe and Asia this summer," he told AFP.

The models also underestimated Arctic sea ice loss, along with the pace at which the ice sheets atop Greenland and West Antarctica -- with enough frozen water to add 13 meters to sea levels -- are disintegrating.

These "feedback effects", both a cause and an effect of global warming, are especially difficult for models to capture, Mann noted.

Finally, science is inherently conservative, doubly so when it comes to the IPCC, whose credibility -- constantly under fire -- depends on never exaggerating the threat.

"There is a cultural tradition in science, especially climate science, to not want to be alarmist," said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

The 2013 IPCC report, for example, chose to not include in its sea-level projection the contribution of melting ice sheets, which have since emerged as the main driver.

"It was erring on the side of least drama," Frumhoff told AFP.

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