The planet is “more likely than not” to reach a 1.5C rise since pre-industrial levels in the near term, resulting in “increasingly irreversible losses,” the world’s leading scientists have warned in the fourth and final instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6) released Monday.
The 8,000-page Synthesis Report summarises eight years of meticulous research conducted by hundreds of leading climate scientists and is considered the most comprehensive, best available scientific assessment of climate change ever compiled.
According to the IPCC scientists, human activities have “unequivocally” caused global warming, leading to the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in at least 2 million years and a 1.1C rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels.
Approximately 3.3-3.6 billion people – about half of the world’s population – are already contending with severe food and water insecurity for at least one month per year as higher temperatures and lower precipitation rates slow down agriculture. The largest adverse impacts have been seen in low-income countries throughout the Global South, despite them contributing the least.
The IPCC notes that public and private finance flows for the fossil fuel industry today far exceed those directed toward climate adaptation and mitigation. The second instalment of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report found that developing nations will require $127 billion per year by 2040 and $295 billion by 2050 to adapt to the far-reaching consequences of climate change. Last year’s COP27 ended with a historic deal on loss and damage compensation for low-income countries.
Rising temperatures are also contributing to the spread of diseases such as malaria and Lyme. On top of that, extreme weather events such as devastating floods and storms have displaced an average of 26.4 million people per year, with experts predicting that another 1.2 billion people may be displaced globally by 2050.
And yet, the world’s top two emitters are still investing heavily in fossil fuel infrastructure. The scientific imperative comes just days after the world’s second-largest polluter, the US, authorised new oil drillings in Alaska, which will unlock an estimated 240 million tons of planet-warming CO2 emissions over three decades, the equivalent of adding 2 million gas-powered cars on the road each year. And a recent report suggested that last year, China approved a record number of new coal projects, more than all other nations combined.
Findings show that we have the resources we need to slash emissions across all sectors – such as renewables, which are on track to become the largest source of global energy – and that carbon capture is among the key ones. There are many natural ways to achieve negative emissions, such as reforestation (and stopping and reversing deforestation) of tropical forests and mangroves, but direct air capture, including the Orca facility in Iceland, is rapidly gaining traction and can make a huge difference in our actions against global warming.
Peter Thorne, director of the Icarus climate research centre at Ireland’s Maynooth University, expressed that “we need to think how future generations will look back at us as a generation that had the full knowledge. The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”