Focused on mitigation, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change catalogues the failures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but holds out some hope that major, urgent action can put the world on a more sustainable trajectory.
A“litany of broken climate promises”. A “file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unliveable world”. This is how United Nations (UN) secretary-general António Guterres described the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday.
The report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, released by the IPCC – the authoritative UN body that assesses the science related to climate change – made a number of notable findings, including:
- Global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions are projected to peak between 2020 and before 2025, at the latest, in global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C;
- Net anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased since 2010 across all major sectors globally. An increasing share of emissions can be attributed to urban areas;
- Reducing GHG emissions across the full energy sector requires major transitions, including a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, the deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers, and energy efficiency and conservation. The continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will “lock in” GHG emissions;
- Urban areas can create opportunities to increase resource efficiency and significantly reduce GHG emissions through the systemic transition of infrastructure and urban form through low-emission development pathways towards net-zero emissions; and
- There is a strong link between sustainable development, vulnerability and climate risks. Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries.
Monday’s publication was the third in a trio of reports. The first focused on the physical science basis of climate change and assessed that changes to the planet’s climate are being observed in every region of the world and across the entirety of the climate system.
The second report focused on the impacts of climate change in a world already 1.1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and that climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and planetary health. That report, released in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noted that any further delay in “concerted anticipatory global action” on adaptation and mitigation will miss a “brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
This most recent report focuses on mitigation, which the IPCC says is “achieved by limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and by enhancing activities that remove these gases from the atmosphere”. Investments in and the development of renewable energy infrastructure and increased adoption of electric vehicles are the most prominent examples of mitigation.
Rapidly reducing GHG emissions is seen as key to keeping the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is the more aspirational “Long Term Global Goal” of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Climatologists say that 1.5°C and 2°C are the thresholds that define “dangerous climate change”.
In this context, it is striking that Monday’s report includes the conclusion that “modelled pathways consistent with the continuation of policies implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions continue to rise, leading to global warming of 3.2 [2.2-3.5]°C by 2100”.
Source: Daily Maverick