Planet’s breakneck warming likely to pass 1.5°C, UN scientists warn
The international goal to limit global heating to 1.5° C is officially on life support. A United Nations-backed panel of climate scientists warned in a new report released on Monday that the world may be on track to warm by more than 3°C — twice the Paris Agreement target — in a change that would painfully remake societies and life on the planet.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes after years of net-zero pledges by national governments, cities, businesses and investors, and it sounds a stark warning on the still-unchecked emissions of greenhouse gas emissions pushing to record levels. The focus of this report, the third released since August 2021, is on humanity’s vast arsenal of technology, know-how and wealth that remain insufficiently deployed in efforts to ensure a livable climate in the future.
Time to limit warming is perilously short. Greenhouse gas pollution must peak “at the latest before 2025” to keep targets alive, the IPCC scientists write. Based on national pledges made before last November’s Glasgow climate negotiations, emissions in 2030 “would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century”, the authors conclude. That puts the loss of the first goal of the Paris Agreement within the lifetimes of many people now alive.
“This is not fiction or exaggeration,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement. “It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.”
As bad as that sounds, scientists in recent years have reduced the likelihood of much higher increases, and the report makes clear that solutions are available or foreseeable in virtually every sector:
There are cost-effective carbon-cutting opportunities that together could meet half the 2030 emissions target. Global GDP would be “a few percent lower” in 2050 than on the current trajectory, not accounting for the benefits of climate damage avoided.
At least 18 countries have proved that it’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a decade running — in some cases up to 4% a year and potentially in line with a 2°C temperature rise.
Solar and wind costs fell by 85% and 55% respectively between 2010 and 2019, making them now cheaper than fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation in many places.
Carbon-free and low carbon technologies, including nuclear and hydroelectric power, made up ...