World on ‘thin ice’ as UN climate report gives stark warning

BERLIN — According to a leading UN panel of scientists, humanity still has a little chance of averting the worst effects of climate change.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that in order to achieve this, carbon pollution must be rapidly reduced by about two thirds by 2035. The head of the UN said it more forcefully, urging affluent nations to stop using coal, oil, and gas by 2040 and calling for an end to new fossil fuel development.

According to Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, “Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast.” “Everything, everywhere, at once, our world requires climate action on all fronts.”

In a stronger appeal for action on fossil fuels, Guterres urged developed countries to move up their goal of attaining net zero emissions to as soon as 2040 and developing countries to set a goal of 2050, which is around ten years earlier than most current objectives. Additionally, he demanded that they stop using coal by 2030 and 2040, respectively, and that carbon-free energy generation, which means no gas-fired power plants, be achieved in the industrialized world by 2035.

The Paris Climate Agreement requires that countries develop goals for reducing pollution by 2035, so that date is crucial. The U.N. science report approved on Sunday came to the controversial conclusion that in order to stay within the Paris warming limit, the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2035 as opposed to 2019—a new target not previously mentioned in the six previous reports published since 2018.

The report referred to climate change as “a threat to human well-being and planetary health” and stated that “the decisions and measures implemented in this decade will have effects for thousands of years.”

Aditi Mukherji, a water scientist and co-author of the research, stated, “We are not on the right route, but it’s not too late. Our message is one of optimism, not of impending catastrophe, we say.

Scientists emphasized the need for haste because the world is only a few tenths of a degree from the internationally agreed-upon target of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. As stated in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the target was set, and the world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to several scientists, including the report’s authors, this is probably the last warning the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group of scientists can issue regarding the 1.5 point. Their next set of reports may be released after Earth has either passed the mark or is already on track to do so soon.

Francis X. Johnson, co-author of the research and a climate, land, and policy expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, warned that at 1.5 degrees, “the hazards are starting to pile on.” In the report, “tipping points” for species extinction are mentioned, including coral reefs, irreversible ice sheet melting, and several-meter sea level rise (several yards).

For small islands and mountain communities that depend on glaciers, 1.5 is a critical limit, according to Mukherji.

If emissions are not lowered as soon as feasible, Johnson stated in an interview, “the window is closing.” Scientists “are a little concerned.”

Reaching 1.5 degrees, according to many experts, including at least three co-authors, is unavoidable.

According to report co-author and climate scientist Malte Meinshausen of the University of Melbourne in Australia, “we are pretty much locked into 1.5.” The big question is whether the temperature rises further from that point or stabilizes. “There’s very little way we will be able to avoid crossing 1.5 C sometime in the 2030s,” the report states.

“The 1.5-degree limit is achievable,” Guterres insisted. Hoesung Lee, chair of the science panel, stated that the globe is currently off course.

According to Lee, “the world average 1.5 degrees temperature increase will be witnessed somewhere in this decade” if current consumption and production patterns continue.

Experts stress that if Earth exceeds the 1.5 degree threshold, neither the world nor humanity would end abruptly. It’s not like we all jump off a cliff, Mukherji added. Yet, a previous IPCC report outlined how the negative effects, including even more intense weather, are significantly worse over 1.5 degrees global warming.

According to Steven Rose, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute in the United States, who is the editor of the IPCC report review, “it is certainly reasonable to be planning for a future that’s warmer than 1.5 degrees.”

Earth will warm by at least 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times if the globe uses all the fossil fuel-powered infrastructure that is currently in place or that is being considered, according to the analysis.

The calculations about fossil fuel projects currently in the works do not account for the rise in coal and natural gas use following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because the report is based on data from a few years ago. It occurs a week after the US Biden Administration authorized the massive Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, which has the potential to generate up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day.

The research emphasizes the gap between wealthy countries, who contributed significantly to the issue since carbon dioxide emissions from industrialisation remain in the atmosphere for more than a century, and impoverished ones, who are more severely affected by extreme weather. According to Lee, citizens of more susceptible, low-income countries are “up to 15 times more likely to die in floods, droughts, and storms.”

Poorer nations require three to six times more financial assistance to make the transition to non-polluting energy and adapt to a warmer planet if the world is to meet its climate targets, according to Lee. A damage compensation fund has been promised, and nations have made financial commitments.

The expectation is that developed nations will decarbonize far more quickly than emerging nations like Brazil in the fight against climate change. Yet, this does not absolve us of our obligation to contribute, said Ana Toni, head of Brazil’s climate change agency. The most vulnerable will be our citizens in developing nations.

The 27-page summary of the report expresses optimism if action is taken and uses the term “opportunity” nine times. But the 94 times the word “risk” is used eclipse that one.

According to IPCC chief Lee, “the pace and scale of what has been done so far and present plans are insufficient to fight climate change.” We should be sprinting while we are instead walking.

It is up to each country to determine the appropriate response, Lee said, adding that the group doesn’t instruct nations on how to prevent further warming.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stated on a conference call regarding wildfires that “the remedies are at hand.” So let that serve as a warning to us that we need to move quickly.

How many reports that make us shiver to the bone must we read before we make the necessary changes? asked Toni Stege, a climate ambassador for the Marshall Islands, a nation at risk from sea level rise. These adjustments will entail some sacrifice, but when a liveable future on our planet is on the line, aren’t they worth it?

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