Policies in place to reduce emissions from December 2020 would lead the planet to a warming of 3.2 degrees Celsius, more than double the 1.5 degree limit which scientists say is essential to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
This is the urgent warning from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released Monday.
“The jury has returned its verdict, and it is damning,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters ahead of the report’s release. “This report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a record of shame, listing the empty pledges that set us firmly on the path to an unlivable world. We are on the fast track to climate catastrophe. Big cities under water, unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, the extinction of a million species of plants and animals, and it’s not fiction nor exaggeration. This is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.
The new report, “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change,” is Working Group III’s contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. It had 278 authors from 65 different countries and cited more than 18,000 studies to complete the “scientific trilogy” of reports that make up the current round of assessment by the UN panel of experts, the president of the UN panel told reporters. IPCC, Hoesung Lee. The first report, released last summer, focused on the state of global warming, while the second, released last month, focused on risk and adaptation.
“The first two IPCC reports told us that climate change is here and now, and that it is causing enormous disruptions to the natural world and human well-being. This report tells us that we are still not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” UN Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen said at the press conference.
Where we are
The report makes it clear that humanity must immediately reverse course if it is serious about mitigating climate change.
“The reality is that greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming, are at their highest level in human history,” Task Force III co-chair Jim Skea told reporters. .
Emissions in 2019 were about 12% higher than they were in 2010 and 54% higher than they were in 1990. This does not mean that no action was taken. The annual growth rate of emissions has slowed over the past decade, from 2.1% per year to 1.3%. In the energy and industry sectors, the growth rate more than halved. But it’s not enough.
“Unless there are immediate reductions and emissions across all sectors, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach,” Skea said.
Sticking to the 1.5 target would mean peaking emissions in 2025 and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 43% by 2030 and methane emissions by 34%. To limit warming to two degrees Celsius, emissions would need to peak again by 2025, then fall by 27% by the end of the decade. On a slightly longer timescale, keeping 1.5 alive means reaching net zero in the early 2050s, when we have until the early 2070s to limit warming to two degrees. While Skea said it was ‘almost inevitable’ that global temperatures would exceed 1.5 degrees this century, they could drop further and hit 1.5 degrees again by 2100 if immediate action is taken. .
what we must do
Fortunately, the report’s authors said the emissions reductions they described were indeed possible.
“The IPCC report before us today is powerful evidence that we have great potential to mitigate climate change,” Lee told reporters. ” We are at the crossroads. Now is the time to act. We have the tools and the know-how to limit global warming and ensure a livable future. »
Each affected sector could make changes that would see its emissions halved by 2030, according to the report’s authors.
The energy sector, which accounts for a third of emissions, could shift from fossil fuels to low- or no-carbon energy systems, move towards electrification, improve energy efficiency and use alternative fuels like hydrogen to low carbon or biofuels.
Transport could reduce its emissions if demand is reduced and electric technology is stimulated, provided it is powered by renewable energy. Battery technology could help power trucks and electric rail, while shipping and aviation are to pioneer alternative fuels.
Urban areas account for more than two-thirds of global emissions, but they could reduce them by improving urban planning, making consumption and production more sustainable, going electric and reducing carbon by planting trees, installing lakes and designing green roofs.
Buildings have the potential to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 by combining the retrofitting of existing buildings and the construction of new buildings taking into account mitigation measures.
Industry accounts for around a quarter of global emissions, but it could reduce that figure by improving efficiency, reusing or recycling more products and reducing waste. There are processes to produce important materials like steel and chemicals with little or no carbon emissions that are nearly ready for commercial use.
Carbon Dioxide Removal
Removing carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will be needed to counter emissions from sectors like aviation or agriculture that are hard to remove. This could take the form of promoting or protecting natural carbon sinks through actions such as reforestation or the development of new technologies, although the latter require more research and investment.
Restoring and protecting natural carbon sinks like forests, peatlands, coastal wetlands and grasslands could remove and store carbon dioxide on a large scale, but that’s not a get out of jail card for that other sectors are delaying the reduction of their own emissions. Shifting to more sustainable methods of growing and managing livestock could also play an important role.
The report also weighed in on whether or not individual lifestyle changes are part of the climate solution. He revealed that reducing emissions from demand and services could lead to a 40-70% reduction in global emissions by 2050. As an individual, the most important change you can make is to move from a gas-powered car to walking, cycling or electric transport. Other actions like reducing air travel, renovating your home to make it more energy efficient, or eating a plant-based diet can also make a difference. However, the report’s authors noted that wealthier people could make the biggest difference in this regard, while some people still need more energy, housing and resources to meet their basic needs. The report also recognizes that it is difficult to act in a vacuum.
“To be effective, lifestyle changes will need to be supported by systemic changes in all aspects of society, including transportation, buildings, industry and land use,” said the vice-president. IPCC Chair, Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, to journalists.
“Game Over for Fossil Fuels”
The release of the report comes at a crucial time for the global energy system, as oil and gas prices soared after Russia invaded Ukraine and countries announced plans to wean themselves off fuels. Russian fossils. Andersen said the world had “failed” on the “green scoreboard” when it came to crafting sustainable recovery plans after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Once again, today we find ourselves with an opportunity for some, as countries search for alternative sources of energy,” she said. “Immediate needs must be met, yes, to heat homes and keep the lights on, but as we rethink hydrocarbon suppliers and our reliance on fossil fuels, the solution must be to initiate the transition to alternative sources of renewable and cleaner energy.
António Guterres made a similar statement regarding the Ukraine crisis.
“Increased fossil fuel generation will only make things worse,” he said, calling on civil society to demand large-scale renewables, an end to coal-fired electricity and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
In response to the new report, climate advocates have also called for a decisive end to the use of fossil fuels.
“It’s over for fossil fuels that fuel both wars and climate chaos,” Kaisa Kosonen, senior policy adviser at Greenpeace Nordic, said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “There is no room for new fossil fuel developments and the coal and gas plants we already have have to close early. While our leaders claim they are doing their best for the climate, scientists have just proven that they are not. There is a lot of potential to do more right now, with huge benefits! Yet the money continues to flow to the problems rather than the solutions, and that will only change with credible goals, policies and support aligned with the Paris Agreement’s warming limit. The threats and opportunities are greater than ever. But so is the power of people coming together for change.