The report presents IPCC’s latest findings regarding humanity’s remaining paths for climate action since the 2015 Paris agreement, in which world leaders committed to prevent dangerous warming. The 3,000-page document details how coordinated efforts to scale up renewable energy sources, overhaul transportation systems, restructure cities, improve agriculture and pull carbon from the air could put the planet on a more sustainable path while improving living standards around the globe.
The panel produces an overview of climate science once every six to eight years. Findings are divided into three reports. The first, on what’s driving global warming, came out last August. The second, on climate change’s effects on our world and our ability to adapt to them, was released in February. We reported on it and highlighted the need to pay attention to the developing world’s needs as it comes under increasing strain from climate change.
This is the third report on how we can cut emissions and limit further warming.
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).” – #IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea on the release of IPCC’s latest #ClimateReport on the mitigation of #climatechange.
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— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) April 4, 2022
Overall goal: halve emissions by 2030, it is “now or never”
In 2010-2019 the average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history, but while the rate of growth has slowed this is not enough: Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach.
However, on the bright side, there is increasing evidence of climate action, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. But the impact of climate action is still too limited.
To control global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will require an immediate reduction in fossil fuel usage, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen), said the IPCC in their latest press release.
Too much money continues to pour into fossil fuels and too little is channelled to clean energy, putting the planet on track to blow past its limit to avoid catastrophic global warming.
“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla. All hope is not lost, and there is much each one of us can do: “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing,” he said.
Limiting warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane needs to be reduced by about a third.
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
The world needs to invest three to six times what is currently spent on mitigating climate change if it wants to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the report says. That sounds like a lot but there is sufficient global capital and liquidity in order to do so. What is needed to unlock the needed funding are clear supporting policies from governments and the international community, including a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy on climate goals.
“Without taking into account the economic benefits of reduced adaptation costs or avoided climate impacts, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be just a few percentage points lower in 2050 if we take the actions necessary to limit warming to 2°C (3.6°F) or below, compared to maintaining current policies,” said Shukla.
This is a statement that is worth reading twice: It means that even without counting the benefits from an economic system that is better adapted to global warming, the cost in terms of GDP losses is minor, just “a few percentage points” (Shukla’s words) – the implication being that if benefits from a sustainable model of economic production are properly calculated, then moving to it would probably cost us nothing.
It is regrettable that that calculation was not made by the IPCC experts.
The importance of politics
The IPCC report, despite some shortcomings (as the one mentioned above), is however useful: It makes clear that for all the technological challenges of transforming the world’s energy supply, a primary obstacle to expansive action remains political.
Long-standing infrastructure and ingrained habits make it difficult for people to switch to more sustainable practices. Policies that would curb carbon emissions get blocked by “incumbent fossil fuel interests,” researchers say – a nice way to mention what economists usually call “vested interests”.
The richest people and wealthiest nations are mainly accountable for heating up the planet. Worldwide, the richest 10 percent of households are responsible for between a third to nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The poorest 50 percent of households contribute around 15 percent of emissions.
Besides that, over half of the 150 biggest financial institutions globally face no restrictions on financing oil and gas, and two-thirds of the world’s largest banks and asset managers are failing to set concrete climate targets for this decade, according to two separate analyses by NGOs. Also, 83% of the world’s biggest polluting firms are yet to map a meaningful path to net-zero emissions, a leading investor alliance found. There’s a “systemic underpricing” of climate risk in the financial system, according to the IPCC.
Without action the report warns that the nations and people who are least at fault for fueling climate change, will be the ones who suffer the most. Something we highlighted in our previous article as well: The Global South that is least responsible for the climate catastrophe will be the one paying the highest price.
Mitigation and adaptation: the only way to go forward
Mitigation and adaptation are unexciting concepts for many people who prefer to hear about “breakthrough innovations”, “revolutionary changes” and the like, but in this case, IPCC experts argue that they are the only rational way to go forward: accelerated climate action in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development, according to the report.
Mitigation can reduce environmental impacts and increase employment and business opportunities. Electrification with renewables and shifts in public transport can enhance health, employment, and equity.
“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production,” said Skea. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”
Overall, urgent action from all sectors is required. Society needs to adapt itself to a more sustainable way of living. The report of the IPPC shows that we, as society, need to make urgent changes where most needed. And, as the IPPC said: “It is now or never” if we want to limit global warming and its consequences for us, and future generations.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: Drylands in Africa. Featured Photo Credit: Flickr.com