Scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on March 20 noted that there are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and that they are available immediately.
“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” emphasized IPCC chair Hoesung Lee, in a press release. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a livable sustainable future for all.”
As noted by IPCC, more than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use has led to global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.
In 2018, IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5°C. Five years later, the Panel notes that the challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions. In the new report, the panel notes that the pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change.
The Panel added that, "In this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed. Meanwhile, keeping warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C."
The new report, approved during a week-long session in Interlaken, Switzerland, brings in to sharp focus the losses and damages people around the world already experiencing due to climate change, and which will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. IPCC scientists contend that taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world.
“Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” noted Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of the Synthesis Report, the closing chapter of the Panel’s sixth assessment.
The report suggests that the global solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.
“The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritizing climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,” added Christopher Trisos, one of the report’s authors. “Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.”