Sunset on 1.5C? IPCC report demands urgent acceleration of climate action

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change has published its latest analysis of the planet’s health. We’re not out of time yet, but findings paint a worrying picture of scant progress. 

In 2018, the IPCC’s report sent out shockwaves around the world, revealing the true extent of action needed across the globe to stop temperatures rising by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Five years on, the organisation’s updated assessment has become more worrying thanks to the ongoing rise in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Simply put, the current rate of progress, and proposed steps that will be taken in the future, are not enough to prevent us passing that maximum warming limit. Given the current 1.1C rise is leading to far more frequent and devastating disasters, from flooding in Pakistan to uncontrollable wildfires on the US west coast, adding another 0.5 degrees would prove catastrophic. 

As the report states, every incremental temperature increase is leading to a rapidly escalating set of hazards. Last summer’s European heatwaves are set to become much more common, as are other weather extremes, pose a clear and present threat to ecosystems and food security, among other things. As is already being felt in countries such as Ethiopia, where millions are now unable to feed themselves following successive years of drought.  

However, the IPCC report does have some positives. Stipulating that the only solution is ‘climate resilient development’ — integrating measures to adapt to climate change while reducing and avoiding emission — the researchers point out that much of the technology needed to safeguard our future is available or proven.

Reassuringly, there is ‘sufficient global capital’ to enable this form of sustainable development, although access to availability of this continues to prevent more effective measures being implemented. There are also enough policy measures that have been tried, tested, and shown to have the desired impact, but again we must be more willing to roll them out. In short, there is a clear way ahead, it’s just a question of choosing to take it, and then hurrying up.

A key step in the right direction is addressing climate justice, with the effects of climate change already taking an uneven toll on the world’s population. Meanwhile it’s also now vital that we see the health of the planet as intrinsically linked to our own, and the stability of economies. This means approaching the problem in a circular, symbiotic way, sharing knowledge and building trust between leaders and nations, and emphasising that climate positive action is good for us in every way. 

‘Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,’ said Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of closing chapter in the Panel’s sixth assessment. ‘Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions.

‘The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritising climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,’ added Christopher Trisos, another of the report’s authors. ‘Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.’

Image: Ankhesenamun





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