A major new IPCC climate change report has stated the world is not on track to limit climate change because emissions reduction policies do not go far enough.
The report was released today by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is a comprehensive summary of the global climate challenge, pulling together previous work by the world’s leading scientists.
Here’s what you need to know.
The climate has already changed
The IPCC climate change report says human activity including energy use, transport, buildings, agriculture and land clearing have “unequivocally” caused average temperatures to warm. Temperatures between 2011-2020 were 1.1ºC higher than their average level from 1850-1900.
This warming has already had “widespread” adverse effects including extinctions, extreme weather events, glacial melting and food insecurity.
The effects have generally been worse for those in low-income countries, who have also contributed the least to emissions.
More warming could do irreversible damage
The effects of warming worsen severely beyond 1.5ºC and in particular beyond 2ºC.
Higher warming raises the likelihood of “irreversible” damage – events like mass extinctions or the melting of glaciers which cannot be reversed even if we eventually use ‘cooling’ techniques to lower global temperatures again.
Emissions reduction policies fall short
The emissions reduction policies currently agreed around the world are not enough to contain warming to low levels. With today’s policies, the IPCC report suggests the world would warm by 3.2ºC by 2100.
“Every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards,” the report reads, adding that “deep, rapid, and sustained reductions” in emissions are needed urgently to contain warming. “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
This decade will be crucial
The IPCC suggests reaching ‘net-zero’ emissions, which most countries aim to reach by 2050, is necessary but not enough.
The report emphasises action in the next decade is key. “All global modelled pathways that limit warming… involve rapid, deep and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade”.
The report lists several effective emissions reduction strategies that are also cost-effective, including solar and wind power and shifting to more sustainable forms of transport.