The Guardian   ‌   ‌ “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C.” ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌ In this week’s newsletter In focus    Composted reads    Climate heroes    Climate jargon    In focus 3 min read Saving our climate is possible – but it requires action now

Apr 7, 2022 by

4:07 AM (6 hours ago)

 to casey

Fiona Harvey

In Focus Image

 That was the stark verdict of the final instalment of the most important scientific report on the climate ever compiled.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the world’s leading climate scientists, published the third part of its landmark sixth assessment report on Monday, setting out the tools we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stave off climate catastrophe. These tools – renewable energy, electric vehicles, low-carbon technology – exist and are sufficient to the task, the IPCC concluded. The cost, by mid-century, will amount to just a few per cent of global GDP.

We have the knowledge and the means, the IPCC made clear. All that’s missing is the will.

This instalment of the comprehensive review, eight years in the making and running to thousands of pages, draws together work from tens of thousands of scientific papers, compiled by hundreds of scientists. As these massive reports take so long to compile – this is only the sixth in more than three decades, since the IPCC was established in 1988 – this one is likely to be the last published while there is still time to stay within the 1.5C limit.

The inconvenient truth

Yet for all its complexity, the IPCC’s final messages are simple. The first part of the report, published in August last year, set out the physical basis of climate science and concluded that human actions, in burning fossil fuels and destroying forests and other landscapes, were wreaking “unprecedented” changes to the climate, some of them “irreversible”, and that these changes would gather pace and force as temperatures increased.

The second part, published in February, described in detail the kind of catastrophic impacts we could expect if temperatures rose to 1.5C and beyond, with widespread and sometimes irreparable harm to the earth’s life-support systems – including damage to food production, water scarcity, coastal inundation, extreme weather and chaos for at least half of the world’s population, who are “highly vulnerable” to the impacts.

This week’s conclusion presented potential solutions – the means of “mitigating” climate change, which in climate science parlance always means cutting greenhouse gas emissions, rather than reducing the impacts of extreme weather. The future, the IPCC found, is entirely in our hands.

But if we want to limit global heating to 1.5C, we need to make drastic changes at once. There is no more time to lose. Fossil fuel infrastructure already in operation, planned or under construction is more than enough to bust the available carbon budget comprehensively, the IPCC found, so we must stop building more and retire what is already there. Renewable energy has plummeted in cost by 85% in a decade, so the alternatives to fossil fuels are readily available and cheap.

Race to the bottom

Even if we act fast, there is still likely to be a need for some new technologies that suck carbon dioxide from the air, to return temperatures to 1.5C by the end of the century after the “almost inevitable” overshoot that is predicted. Yet the IPCC made clear these could not be used to compensate for continued high emissions. We will need them in addition to stopping burning coal, gas and oil.

Current policies will not be enough to bring about the change needed – they would take us to 3C or more. We need new policies, fast.

Past IPCC reports have been argued over, overshadowed or ignored. This one cannot be. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC working group and a professor at Imperial College London. This was our final warning.

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