The window of opportunity to address the climate crisis is soon closing, a group of leading climate scientists from around the world have warned, and we’re on course to face catastrophic climate damage. The current plans to prevent the worst consequences are not enough, and governments, businesses, and individuals need to take action.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which groups the scientists, published the final part of its massive sixth assessment of the state of the climate. The review took experts eight years to compile and has thousands of pages, but it all goes back to one key message: take bold actions now before it’s too late.
In the report, the researchers said the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has become more difficult due to the increase in emissions. This has led to more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, which have caused impacts on people and nature in all regions.
The 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature target is recognized as necessary to avoid the world crossing tipping points – thresholds at which small changes can lead to big shifts in the planet. Meeting this target will require deep, rapid and sustained emissions reductions across all sectors, the report reads. Temperatures are now above 1.1 C and rising fast .
“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement. “The report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a sustainable future.”
The state of the climate
The new report, approved after a week of meetings in Switzerland, gives world leaders with a high-quality summary of modern climate science. The findings are expected to serve as a manual for tackling the climate emergency. “The climate bomb is ticking. But the report is a guide to defuse it,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. Even the two degree goal is hard to achieve with the way we’re progressing now.
Three billion people are already living in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to the effects of the climate, the IPCC said, and half of the global population experiences severe water scarcity during most of the year. In many parts of the world, we are reaching the limit to which we can adapt to severe changes, displacing thousands of people.
Yet there’s still hope, the climate scientists have said. If emissions can be made to peak as soon as possible, and are reduced in the following years, it may still be possible to avoid the worst impacts that would follow a 1.5C rise. This would include a wide array of actions – from stop investing in fossil fuels to changing diets to changing agriculture.
Wind and solar have the greatest potential to bring down emissions, the IPCC said, as their costs have dropped 85% and 55% since 2010, respectively. In most of the world, building new renewable energy sources is now cheaper than running existing coal power plants. However, fossil fuels still fulfil 80% of the world’s energy needs.
“Governments have no excuse to ignore the emphatic warning for this critical decade. They must act fast to reject fossil fuels and stop any new expansion of oil, gas and coal. The blueprint for climate action presented by the IPCC is not short of solutions and infused with enough hope,” Harjeet Singh, Climate Action Network International, said in a statement.