The best future — one with less climate disasters, extinctions and human misery — includes limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But scientists warn that for that to happen, greenhouse gas levels must start falling by 2025.
“We are on the fast track to combat climate catastrophe,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday in announcing the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s preeminent climate agency.
“This is not fiction or exaggeration,” he added. “Science tells us that this will be the result of our current energy policies. We are on the path to over 1.5 degrees of global warming.”
In 2016, nearly every country signed the Paris climate agreement, pledging to avoid the worst climate impacts by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius) below pre-industrial levels. But the world is already 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer, and this new report makes it all too clear that if humans don’t immediately and fundamentally change the way they live, get energy and food from us, the warming goal could soon be out of reach How we build and move.
“If we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), now or never,” Jimskia of Imperial College London, one of the report’s co-authors, said in a statement. “This will not be possible without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all industries.”
Skea is one of hundreds of scientists around the world who contributed to the report, “Climate Change 2022: Mitigating Climate Change,” the third and final part of the IPCC’s sixth climate assessment. Previous issues published in recent months have focused on summarizing the climate impacts that are already here and what might happen, and laying out ways to adapt to them.
In the face of worsening climate impacts, from intensifying heatwaves and floods to growing food supply disruptions, humans have added fuel to the fire by continuously pumping more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than ever before over the past decade.
According to the new report, global emissions averaged about 59 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, about 12 percent higher than 2010 levels and 54 percent higher than 1990 levels. This is an astonishing increase.
But the responsibility for rising emissions does not fall equally on everyone.
“Households in the top 10% of per capita emissions contribute a disproportionately large share globally [greenhouse gas] emissions,” according to a summary of the new report. For example, in 2019, small island developing States were estimated to have released 0.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The only way to prevent widespread climate damage is to stop this trend now. On the one hand, this means that fossil fuels are no longer actively used.
“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles, and consumption and production patterns,” Skea said. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer and more sustainable world.”
The report comes at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has sparked a surge in energy costs, just as conversations in Europe, the United States and elsewhere are moving faster away from Russia’s fossil fuels.
“Right now, we are facing challenging times. We have learned about this brutal war in Ukraine,” WMO Secretary-General Petri Taalas said at a news conference on Monday, before combining the fighting on the ground with restrictions The fight against climate change. “In the best-case scenario, this will accelerate the reduction of fossil energy use and accelerate the green transition. In the worst-case scenario, the benefits of climate change mitigation will be challenged by this development.”
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