The world must achieve “deep and rapid” emissions reductions across all sectors in order to skirt the worst effects of the climate crisis, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The United Nations body responsible for advancing knowledge on climate change urged multiplying the speed of the global shift to renewable energy by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and reinvesting those funds in wind and solar in the latest report from the Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change, released on Monday.
“We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said at a press conference on the report’s release. “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying… High-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye. They're adding fuel to the flames, they are choking our planet based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels.”
The report contains 3,675 pages urging policymakers to decarbonize all sectors quickly, or else risk allowing greenhouse gas emissions to warm the earth by 3.2 degrees past pre-industrial levels, more than double the recommended threshold to avoid climate catastrophe
That starts with the energy sector—it’s responsible for around a third of global emissions, working group vice-chair Diana Ürge-Vorsatz said in the report’s press conference. Slashing this industry’s impact on the environment will require removing subsidies for fossil fuels, electrifying the energy system, incentivizing the buildout of alternative fuels like green hydrogen and sustainable biofuels, and financing the development of renewables, like wind and solar.
“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” Guterres said, noting recent investments in fossil fuels in the face of strain on oil markets following conflict in Ukraine. “Such investments will soon be stranded assets, a blot on the landscape, and a blight on investment portfolios. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“A shift to renewables will mend our broken global energy mix,” Guterres said.
The report is the brainchild of more than 195 governments and 293 authors, who considered 18,000 scientific papers and more than 60,000 comments in drafting the report, and, per The Guardian, were weighing last-minute changes up until Sunday night.
It follows two other reports from other IPCC working groups released in the last year: The Convention is divided into three working groups, the first devoted to dealing with the physical science of climate change, and the second devoted to tracking and predicting its impacts and possibilities for adaptation. And the third working group, which published the latest report, is focused on mitigation. Together, they release scientific assessments on the threat of climate change in cycles every six or seven years.
The first working group used more than 14,000 existing scientific studies to determine that a 1.5°C temperature rise was essentially certain by 2040 in a landmark report published in August; the second, released in February, found that some 40 percent of the global population lives in regions of “high vulnerability” to climate change, where they are certain to experience drought, sea level rise, and the loss of valuable farmland in coming years.
Both reports urge the importance of swift and radical action to prevent these outcomes, and Monday’s report, the last in the trilogy of the sixth assessment, offers ways to do so.
“We are definitely not on track to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” working group co-chair Dr. Jim Skea said during Tuesday’s press conference. “But there is increased evidence of climate action.”
Skea said nations that are accomplishing steady decreases in emissions to the extent required to limit warming to 2 degrees celsius are embracing policies to accelerate the deployment of renewables, reduce rates of deforestation and enhance energy efficiency. The wind and solar sectors are displaying notable signs of success, he said, as per-unit costs have plummeted in the last two decades; embracing these technologies will be necessary to mitigating the worst effects of the climate crisis.
“Unless there are immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach,” Skea said. “To limit warming to around 1.5 degrees requires reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions in the early 2050s… deep and sustained reductions of other gases would also be required.”