'It's now or never': UN climate report shows globe is on 'track toward an unlivable world'
- Total net greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise during the years 2010-2019.
- "This report tells us we're still not doing enough to cut carbon emissions."
- Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are considered the most authoritative assessments of the state of global warming.
The time for talk has passed and the time to act is now, according to a new United Nations report on how to curb the worst consequences of climate change.
Rapid mitigation measures – reductions in fossil fuels and better building practices – are needed to avoid unsustainable global warming, according to the report.
In fact, the report says, without immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is "beyond reach."
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed “a litany of broken climate promises” by governments and corporations and accused them of stoking global warming by clinging to harmful fossil fuels.
“It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” he said. "We are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts."
Total net greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise during the years 2010-2019, according to the report. Although the rate of growth was lower than 2000-2009, the average annual emissions were higher than in any decade on record.
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"This report tells us we're still not doing enough to cut carbon emissions," United Nations Environment Programme executive director Inger Andersen said. "The last two decades saw the highest increase in carbon emissions in human history, even though we know the trouble we are in.
“The next decade cannot follow the same pattern if we are to hold warming this century to 1.5 degrees. We have the knowledge and the technology to get this done."
The environmental group Climate Nexus said the main takeaway from the report is that "we must wind down dependence on fossil fuels by scaling up renewables that are now incredibly cheap and available when political barriers are overcome, to deeply reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible."
Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are considered the most authoritative assessments of the state of global warming, its consequences and the measures being taken to tackle it.
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit),” IPCC co-chair Jim Skea said. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
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The cutoff point for data in the report was last fall, meaning the effect of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia weren’t included by the authors.
Last August, the IPCC said climate change caused by humans was “an established fact” and warned that some effects of global warming are already inevitable. In March, the panel published a report that outlined how further temperature increases will multiply the risk of floods, storms, drought and heat waves worldwide.
"Getting the scientific community and governments to agree on the report's summary for policymakers wasn't easy – which shows one thing above all: It's decision time now," said report co-author Elmar Kriegler of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "The report is not just words, it calls for action, and it's good that governments now recognize this. For example, we need to phase out coal worldwide."
Governments had agreed in the 2015 Paris accord to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) this century, ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
Yet temperatures have already increased by more than 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F) since pre-industrial times, resulting in measurable increases in disasters such as flash floods, prolonged droughts, more intense hurricanes and longer-burning wildfires – putting human lives in danger and costing governments hundreds of billions of dollars.
"I hope this information will be used by governments in different parts of the world to proceed with mitigation," World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Petteri Taalas said.
Skea concluded that “climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production. This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”
Contributing: The Associated Press