A new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that, without drastic action, the world will surpass a critical global warming threshold in the next decade: the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target.
The good news & bad news about the IPCC report
The bad news: We’re on track to pass 1.5 degrees Celsius warming
Nations are not on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50 percent by 2030, or to reach net zero emissions by 2050. As a result, the climate could cross the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target within roughly a decade.
Axios notes that the report is the “final installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) sixth assessment report.” By the time the next report comes out in five years or so, it could be too late to stay under the 1.5 degree target.
The good news: We still have time to limit greenhouse gas emissions
The world can still limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius if nations and industries take swift action. That means investing in clean energy, canceling planned fossil fuel infrastructure, and retiring other existing fossil fuel infrastructure.
“The climate time-bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity. As it shows, the 1.5-degree limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” said Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.
Climate adaptation gets harder as the world gets warmer
There’s a big difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees of warming. Past a certain point, humanity will reach “hard limits” to adaptation.
From The New York Times:
- “The difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees might mean that tens of millions more people worldwide experience life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. A 1.5-degree world might still have coral reefs and summer Arctic sea ice, while a 2-degree world most likely would not.”
From The Washington Post:
- “The report reveals thresholds in how much warming people and ecosystems can adapt to. Some are ‘soft’ limits — determined by shortcomings in political and social systems. For example, a low-income community that can’t afford to build flood controls faces soft limits to dealing with sea level rise.
- But beyond 1.5 degrees of warming, the IPCC says, humanity will run up against ‘hard limits’ to adaptation. Temperatures will get too high to grow many staple crops. Droughts will become so severe that even the strongest water conservation measures can’t compensate. In a world that has warmed roughly 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) — where humanity appears to be headed — the harsh physical realities of climate change will be deadly for countless plants, animals and people.”