The world’s target to limit global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach, according to the latest IPCC report published on April 4th, 2022. The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) known as Working Group III report is the most comprehensive review of the state of knowledge on climate change ever completed.
It contains over eight years’ worth of new peer-reviewed science as an update to the IPCC’s last such report published in 2014. The United Nations-backed climate change report series consists of four reports with three already published in the last six months and one to be released in October this year. These four are part of a report cycle, which provides the best available climate science information for all countries.
“The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning… This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video statement.
The report describes the urgent need for the world to make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Even though it calls the likelihood of not overshooting 1.5°C of warming nearly gone, it does remark there is still optimism based on increasing evidence of climate action over the last few years.
Based on current trajectories of emissions reductions, the report states the world may be on track to warm by more than 3°C – twice the Paris Agreement target. Such abnormal change in climate patterns would painfully hurt societies and life on the planet.
The analysis also reminds there is just a handful of years left before the carbon budget for the 1.5°C threshold is spent. However, with the current track of progress made on emissions reductions that target seems most likely to be surpassed. For the 1.5°C threshold to be met, the global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and fall by 43% by the end of the decade.
Previous scientific analyses have also stated that global emissions need to fall to approximately 18 gigatons of CO2 (25 gigatons of CO2e) per year by 2030 to be on a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 and to have a chance of limiting heating to 1.5°C.
How The World Could Meet The 1.5°C Limit?
In 2021, greenhouse-gas emissions reached 36.3 billion metric tons which is close to 2019 levels as the world is recovering from the pandemic. Such substantial emissions cuts are still possible, however, they require involvement from all sectors in the economy.
The IPCC report states that fossil fuel use must fall – 100%, 60% and 70% below 2019 levels by 2050 for coal, oil and gas respectively without carbon capture and storage. The transport must also be electrified, the electricity grids re-wired to rely heavily on renewables and economies must get used to learning how to use energy more smartly.
According to IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla, changes in policies, infrastructure and technology along with our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
One of the most important takeaways from The Sixth Assessment Report is that accelerating the capacity of wind and solar energy is the most impactful and affordable way to keep temperatures to 1.5C. IPCC shows that wind power has the potential to deliver 3.9 gigatons of emissions savings, and solar 4.5 gigatons by 2030.
Combined, they can provide over one-third of the total emissions reductions necessary by 2030. Additionally, over half of emissions reductions from wind and solar will come at lower costs compared to the “business as usual” scenario which means their deployment will actually save money.
Another report released by UNEP and IUCN in 2021 estimates that nature-based solutions can deliver substantial emission removals – at least 5 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, and at least 10 gigatons by 2050 on a conservative basis.
Rapid decarbonization of the global economy, based on replacing fossil fuel use with renewable energy, coupled with contributions from nature could play the role in reaching the Paris Agreement goal. That means the world can still achieve as much reduction in emissions as we need to meet the 1.5°C threshold.
The IPCC report also suggests that technologies that capture CO2 pollution and store it underground, under the ocean or in manufactured goods can allow otherwise polluting infrastructure to continue to exist.
“It’s time to stop burning our planet and start investing in the abundant renewable energy all around us,” said Mr. Guterres.
The glimpses of hope come from some encouraging facts that are shifting the direction towards ramping up renewable energy. As fossil fuels prices are surging in recent months, making them incredibly expensive for electricity generation, the world could turn towards solar, wind and nuclear.
Solar and wind prices have fallen 85% and 55% respectively between 2010 and 2019 and currently, they are cheaper in many places compared to fossil fuels. Globally, there were also 100 times more electric vehicles on the roads in 2019 than there were in 2010.
“We know that a net zero economy presents huge opportunities for growth and the creation of good green jobs and so countries and companies need to accelerate that transition,” said COP26 President Alok Sharma.
IPCC Report Final Thoughts
The latest IPCC report is pressuring for urgent actions on climate change. However, the words they use actually underestimate the importance of a rapid reduction of emissions and a shift in the global energy strategy. So far policymakers and the industry still subsidizes and exploits fossil fuel use and they have been consistently reluctant on phasing them out completely even though the science is clear on the need to do that immediately.
The report itself also reveals how negotiations among diplomats change scientists’ underlying conclusions: “The interaction between politics, economics and power relationships is central to explaining why broad commitments do not always translate to urgent action,” the scientists write in their Technical Summary.
The politicians and industry pushing towards fossil fuels use directly translates into investing in a future where people would be losing their homes due to global sea level rise or weather events that are projected to become increasingly extreme and severe, where millions would be affected by hunger due to droughts, floods or lack of food resources.
Climate change immigration is another serious concern that is expected to increase tensions among nations. Increasing levels of greenhouse gas emission and warming of the planet are proven to have severe impacts on human lives around the world and continuous sustainment of fossil fuels translates into sustainment of deaths of human beings and living creatures on the planet.