Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is not hopeless. The science says actions can prevent some of the worst effects if done soon.

On 4 April, the UN’s climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released the last of three installments of its Sixth Assessment Report. The 3,675-page long report focuses on solutions to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It provides a roadmap for how to rapidly reduce emissions in the next three decades and urges countries to make immediate and deep emissions reductions to avoid the worst-case warming scenario.

“This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unliveable world,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message. He called everyone to act to create “a grassroots movement that can’t be ignored” by demanding the end of fossil fuel subsidies and the massive deployment of renewable energy. “We are on a fast track to climate disaster: Major cities underwater. Unprecedented heatwaves. Terrifying storms. Widespread water shortages. The extinction of a million species of plants and animals. This is not fiction or exaggeration.”

The report shows that rapid mitigation measures such as reductions in fossil fuels and better building practices are essential to avoid extreme global warming. But without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is beyond reach. It is now or never, the scientists warned during a press conference.

According to the IPCC, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero in the 2050s to stabilise global warming at the target agreed upon in the Paris Climate Accords. The report provides details on the last remaining paths to stop irreversible damage to the planet. It makes clear that there is no one silver bullet solution to solving global warming. Instead, governments, businesses, communities and individuals all have a role to play in transforming economies, embracing new habits, and shaping a safer and more sustainable future.

An article on Climate Home News lists five key takeaways from the report:

  • Without immediate action to cut emissions, the chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C is slipping away
  • Leaving coal, oil and gas in the ground is necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals
  • Carbon-cutting and low-emissions technologies are becoming cheaper and the economic benefit of limiting warming to below 2C is higher than the cost of action
  • Carbon capture and storage technology is needed for the industrial sector to reach net zero CO2 emissions, but the technology remains underdeveloped and is facing technological, economic and environmental barriers
  • In wealthy nations, behaviour and lifestyle changes (diet, mobility, etc) can reduce global emissions “rapidly” with support from policy and design infrastructure.

What EIT Climate-KIC experts say about the IPCC report:

Tom Mitchell, Chief Strategy Officer: “As if we did not know already, the IPCC report reinforces that mitigation and adaptation are both extremely urgent, integral to sustainable development, and increasingly indivisible. Yet the international structures and practices we have are woefully inadequate. How can it be that some countries have never spent a single cent of international adaptation finance, or we have those who choose convoluted, lengthy, multi-stage bureaucratic processes over treating the climate crisis as an actual emergency? You don’t see ambulance crews first waiting for a six-month peer review process or being asked for a 250-page proposal.”

Thomas Osdoba, NetZeroCities Programme Director: “The urgency called for by the latest IPCC report demands that we try new ways to accelerate action. Europe’s new ‘mission’ of 100 Climate-neutral Cities by 2030 is one way cities continue to show their willingness to respond by using innovation to drive systemic changes. We have to help cities take much more aggressive actions around building energy use, transportation and waste.”

Ellie Tonks, Programme Lead of EIT Climate-KIC’s Resilient Regions programme: “The latest IPCC report calls for a move from responding to climate risks towards climate resilient development. It recognises the need for transformation and system transitions (across energy, land, ocean, coastal and freshwater ecosystems, urban, rural, infrastructure, and industry and society), which is an approach EIT Climate-KIC has been championing with our Resilient Regions Deep Demonstrations in Andalusia, the Dolomites and Glasgow City Region. It also sets out the case for governance and finance transformation, recognising that market solutions alone are not enough to change the systems supporting human, ecosystems and planetary heath.”

Daniel Zimmer, EIT Climate-KIC Director of Sustainable Land Use: “The Land Use or AFOLU sector (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses) is becoming increasingly critical to help us achieve the 1.5° target. It offers a unique and large potential since it absorbs, together with the ocean, a significant part of our CO2 emissions and since it can produce materials that substitute high fossil-carbon products such as steel, cement, or fuel. It also offers to all of us the possibility to take part in reducing its emissions largely due to deforestation and methane emissions, both related to meat production. This large potential needs to be protected and possibly enhanced by all means, but it is threatened by the degradation generated by our activities and as a consequence of climate change itself (e.g. by increased storms, wildfires).”

Marco Carreira Silva, EIT Climate-KIC Systems Innovation Coordinator: “Finance is critical to enable immediate and deep transformations of systems our societies depend on. But the current finance system is short-term-oriented and lacking instruments and mechanisms at scale to unlock finance for climate action. EIT Climate-KIC and its community continues to work to change that. The Long-Termism Alliance and the Cross-KIC Access to Finance entrepreneurship initiatives are examples of our efforts.

 

The report comes amid recent concerns over the global supply of oil and natural gas due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In opinion pieces recently published in the media, EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop writes that the EU can stop the import of Russian gas and Innovation is key to enable the EU to break free from Russian energy.

 

Read the full Report

 

Note: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations composed of thousands of scientists and other expert volunteers. They do not conduct original research nor monitor climate change, but rather undertake a periodic, systematic review of all relevant published literature. Their reports provide objective and comprehensive scientific information on climate change impacts and risks as well as possible responses.

 

 

 

 
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