5 Takeaways From the U.N. Report on Limiting Global Warming

Nations are not doing enough to prevent global warming from increasing to dangerous levels during the lifetime of most people on Earth today, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of researchers convened by the United Nations. Limiting the devastation won’t be easy, but it’s also not impossible if countries act now, the report says.

The panel produces a comprehensive overview of climate science once every six to eight years. He divides his findings into three reports. The first, on what is driving global warming, was published last August. The second, on the effects of climate change on our world and our ability to adapt to them, was published in February. This is number 3, on how we can reduce emissions and limit further warming.

The report makes it clear: Current pledges by nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, in the next few years. decades. And that’s assuming the countries go ahead. If they don’t, even more warming awaits.

That goal, preventing the average global temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, is one that many world governments have agreed to pursue. It sounds modest. But that number represents a series of sweeping changes occurring as greenhouse gases trap more heat on the planet’s surface, including deadlier storms, more intense heat waves, rising sea levels and additional pressure on crops. . The Earth has already warmed by around 1.1 degrees Celsius on average since the 19th century.

So far, the world is not becoming more energy efficient fast enough to balance continued growth in global economic activity, the report says.

Carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, buildings, farms and vehicles increased in the 2010s, outpacing the benefits of switching power plants to natural gas from coal and the use of more renewable sources such as wind and electricity. solar.

In general, it is the richest people and the richest nations that are warming the planet. Globally, the richest 10 percent of households are responsible for between a third and nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The poorest 50 percent of households contribute about 15 percent of emissions.

Prices for solar and wind energy, and batteries for electric vehicles, have fallen significantly since 2010, according to the report. The result is that it may now be “more expensive” in some cases to maintain highly polluting power systems than to switch to clean sources, the report says.

In 2020, solar and wind power provided about 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Average global emissions grew much more slowly in the 2010s than in the 2000s, in part due to increased use of green energy.

It was not obvious to scientists that this would happen so quickly. In a 2011 report on renewable energy, the same panel noted that technological advances would likely make green power cheaper, though it said it was difficult to predict how much.

The world needs to invest three to six times what it currently spends on mitigating climate change if it wants to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, the report says. Money is particularly tight in the poorest countries, which need trillions of dollars of investment every year for this decade.

As nations transition away from fossil fuels, some economic disruption is inevitable, the report says. Resources will be left on the ground unburned; mines and power plants will become financially unviable. The economic impact could be in the trillions of dollars, the report says.

Still, simply keeping planned and existing fossil fuel infrastructure running will pump enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the report says.

The report looks at a host of other changes to societies that could reduce emissions, including more energy-efficient buildings, more recycling, and more white-collar work going remote and virtual.

These changes do not have to be tasks that discourage the economy, the report emphasizes. Some, like better public transportation and more walkable urban areas, have benefits for air pollution and general well-being, said Joyashree Roy, an economist at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok who contributed to the report. “People are demanding healthier cities and greener cities,” he said.

In total, steps that would cost less than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide saved could cut global emissions to about half the 2019 level by 2030, the report says. Other steps remain more expensive, such as capturing more carbon dioxide from the gases that come out of power plant smokestacks, the report says.

The world also needs to remove carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. Planting more trees is about the only way this is being done on a large scale at the moment, the report says. Other methods, such as using chemicals to remove carbon from the atmosphere or adding nutrients to the oceans to stimulate photosynthesis in tiny marine plants, are still in the early stages of development.

“We cannot ignore how much technology can help,” said Joni Jupesta, an author of the report from the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for Earth in Kyoto, Japan. “Not all countries have many natural resources.”

Leave a Comment