THE UN’S Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) RELEASED ITS MOST CONTROVERSIAL REPORT TODAY. Following earlier chapters on how humanity’s abuses of the land and water are causing climate change and how things aren’t looking good (but hope isn’t entirely lost), this one addresses the most difficult topic of all: how are we expected to come together as a species to remedy this mess? Hundreds of scientists contributed to the report, which shows that mankind can combat climate change.
During a Monday news conference releasing the conclusions, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The jury has reached the conviction, and it is damning,” calling the study “a litany of unfulfilled climate commitments.” It’s a shameful dossier that catalogues the bogus promises that have set us on the path to an unlivable planet.”
He warned against individuals who would dismiss the findings, citing “record heat waves, severe storms, widespread water shortages, and the loss of a million species of plants and animals.” “This is not a work of fiction or hyperbole. It’s what science predicts would happen as a result of our existing energy policy,” he explained.
One of the report’s most depressing conclusions is that we’ll need to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 to be on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goals. However, the authors of the paper believe that present climate promises are causing a rise in emissions between now and then. They argue that emissions must peak by 2025, but that unless mitigation measures are greatly increased, the world will rise by an alarming 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
At the news conference, Inger Andersen, UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the UN Environment Program, said, “The IPCC informs us that we have the knowledge and the technology to get this done through a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable and alternative fuels.” “We must go from deforestation to restoration,” Andersen concluded, “by supporting nature in our landscapes, oceans, and cities; by converting our cities into green and clean areas; and by changing our behaviour to meet the demand side of the equation.”
The research focuses on solutions, concluding that there are choices available in every sector—including energy, industry, and transportation—to cut emissions in half by 2030, and by as much as 70% by 2050. However, we are now heading in the wrong way. Instead of going all-in on renewables, we may lock in the development of future emissions by developing additional fossil fuel energy infrastructure.
“Emissions have continued to rise even though the rate of growth has slowed over the last decade,” says James Edmonds, a lead author of the report and a researcher at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland in College Park. “The good news is that humans have made several technological advancements in recent years that have proven to be incredibly beneficial.”
Advances in battery technology, for example, have reduced the cost of electric vehicles, resulting in more acceptance among drivers. Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of lithium-ion batteries, as well as wind and solar electricity, plummeted by up to 85%. In many circumstances, they are currently less expensive than fossil-fuel-based energy. This is assisting developed countries, such as the United States, in really beginning to reduce emissions. (The country is also using more natural gas, which emits fewer emissions than coal but is still a carbon-rich fuel that is bad for the environment.)