‘Now or never’: the four main points of the UN climate report

According to the report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigating Climate Change, published on April 4, if urgent measures are not taken, humanity will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C, after which the future will see an increase in fires, droughts, hurricanes and others. However, at the current level of progress, greenhouse gas emissions are likely to generate twice as much warming: about 3.2°C by 2100.

“Now or never, we must act now if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” said Jim Sciaa, co-chair of a working groupIPCC who drafted the report. “Without immediate and drastic emission reductions across all sectors, that would be impossible.”

Greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached their highest levels in human history; In 2020, there was a sharp drop in the wake of epidemic containment measures, but in 2021 they rose or even exceeded the record levels of 2019, when there was an increase of 12% compared to 2010 – and 54% compared to 1990, the year of publication of the first report of theIPCC.

Skia stressed, however, that “there is increasing evidence of climate interventions”: the pace of increase in greenhouse gas emissions was slower between 2010 and 2019 than in the previous decade; And now there are technologies and policies that can allow for a sharp reduction in emissions, if there is the political will to implement them.

“We are at a crossroads,” Hoesung Lee, President . addedIPCC. “The decisions we make now can ensure a livable future. We have the tools and skills to contain global warming.”

Here are some key points from the report.

The clean energy revolution just got a lot cheaper

For there to be hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, worldwide coal use must be reduced by 95%, and oil and gas consumption must be reduced by 60% and 45%, respectively by 2050. Fortunately, for many people In many places, installing new clean energy systems is cheaper than continuing to use energy from fossil fuels, and it is often cheaper to install new fossil fuel infrastructure as well.

From 2010 to 2019, the cost of both solar and lithium-ion batteries decreased by an average of 85%, and the cost of wind energy by 55%. The collapse in prices has allowed the application of these technologies on a much larger scale: the use of electric cars, for example, has risen 100 times during the same decade, and solar energy is now 10 times more widespread. Around the world, although specific the numbers vary widely from country to country and region to region.

“At least in the R&D and demonstration phase, we have all the technologies needed to decarbonize our economy, and those we haven’t developed yet can be implemented, quickly, with the right policies,” says Genevieve Guenter, director and founder of the volunteer organization. Ending Climate Silence And the author of the next book The language of climate policy (the language of climate policy, so). “As we saw in the period of the Second World War, when at first some horses and carriages were still used, and at last the splitting of the atom was reached, man is capable of great works, when he advances himself.”

Politics and resistance to change are the main obstacles

Many countries have implemented policies that have improved energy efficiency, reduced the rate of deforestation, or accelerated the deployment of clean energy technologies. Others pledged to cut emissions by signing the Paris Agreement. However, many countries’ targets are not ambitious enough, while others have promised to drastically reduce their emissions but show no signs of taking action.

“Some, including political and business leaders, say one thing and then do another,” said Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General following the report’s publication. “They are basically lying. The results will be disastrous.”

in the report IPCC It has been reported that “from a purely technological and cost-effective point of view, mitigation of emissions to limit heating to 1.5°C is feasible”. Obstacles come “from politics and power relations, and from interests in maintaining the status quo and obstructing climate policies, including the abandonment of fossil fuels. Disinformation campaigns that actively seek to undermine confidence in climate science belong in this context.”

“It’s the first time I’ve seen misinformation, most notably a report byIPCCAlexander Baron, associate professor of environmental science and policy at Smith College in Massachusetts. “As a scientist working on climate policy, I have seen the messages of so-called experts amplified by think tank financed by fossil fuel operators; I have seen representatives appointed to attend community meetings; I think it is difficult to realize the active opposition that has been made to go down the path we should take instead.”

The report also notes that renewable energy funding is “far below what is needed”, and is in no way comparable to subsidies for fossil fuels. The final reversal of this issue is that even if only these subsidies were removed, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 10% by 2030.

Necessary reductions in methane emissions

Although shorter in duration and less abundant in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas: it is estimated that by mid-century it will account for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions (apart from carbon dioxide). However, since it is less stable in the atmosphere, it is possible to obtain a rapid reduction of its effect on global warming by significantly reducing its emissions.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to intercept so-called “runaway” emissions: the amounts of methane that are released into the atmosphere during extraction and transportation activities or that seep from long-abandoned oil wells. L ‘IPCC It is estimated that fugitive emissions account for approximately 32% of the total methane released into the atmosphere globally and 6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon dioxide removal: a ‘temporary’ solution without reservations

Given the slow processes towards reducing the amounts of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, the report notes that it will be necessary, in the meantime, to remove some of those already present. Some estimates suggest that 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide will need to be removed from the atmosphere (more than the total annual emissions of the United States) annually by mid-century. However, some methods of doing this may have more contraindications than advantages.

“It took us a long time to take the necessary actions, and it’s not surprising that some models include CO2 removal, especially if we want to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C,” Barron says. “It is easier to avoid emitting carbon dioxide than to remove it once it is already there. But in the report’s list, there are many practices – such as reforestation, better forest management, best agricultural and agricultural practices, and protection of coastal ecosystems – that capture carbon dioxide naturally and are Also beneficial for biodiversity and livelihoods at the same time. The local people and therefore probably worth putting it in anyway. The problem is when people think it’s enough to find a magical technology that solves the problem for us.”

In connection with this, the report asserts that some of the activities undertaken to remove carbon dioxide, such as reforestation (planting timber in a barren land of woody vegetation) and converting the land to biofuel cultivation, can have negative impacts on biodiversity. and livelihoods of local people, while ocean fertilization – the distribution of nutrients to the upper layers of the ocean to promote plankton growth – can cause changes in the ecosystem as well as acidification of deep waters.

For a real chance of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C, a report concludesIPCCthe model’s predictions indicate that between now and 2100, we will have to extract 170 billion to 900 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, using only one or both of the available technologies.

The first is called BECCS (Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage), involves burning trees – which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and capturing the carbon dioxide produced from chimneys, which is then buried underground, allowing net carbon dioxide reduction from the atmosphere air. The second technology is called DAC (Direct Air Capture), involves machines that literally suck carbon dioxide out of the air using a chemical reaction.

Critics say that both of these technologies have significant drawbacks: growing enough plants for BECCS Vast areas of farmland will have to be converted into biofields. and the DAC It’s still expensive.

Urgent but not impossible

Defining the report as “a defining moment for our planet,” John Kerry, the US president’s special envoy on climate, said he notes that “we are not yet ready for the fight to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” but adds, “We have the tools to achieve our goals, Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, achieving zero emissions by 2050 and ensuring a healthier and cleaner planet for the future.”

Despite the urgency inherent in the report’s conclusions, Barron points out, we should not consider that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise beyond 2025, the battle is essentially lost.

“Even if we exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, every tenth of the degree we can save to stay below 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a massive reduction in human suffering,” Barron says. “We really need to accelerate and intensify what we are doing on all fronts, and the longer we wait, the more climate damage we will face.

“The biggest component of uncertainty mentioned in the report IPCC It is the work of individuals, and it is not out of our control. We can choose to go one way or the other. The question is how many people will be willing to fight for this cause.”

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