LAST week, we briefly told you about the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), so we wanted to take a longer look at what’s in it, and what can be done to keep global warming to below 2oC.
WHAT DOES THE REPORT SAY?
It’s called Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Mitigation means to make something less painful
or unpleasant, and this is the first ever IPCC report to look into what we can actually do about the climate crisis. Previous reports have looked at what’s causing global warming and the effects it’s been having.
The 278 scientists who wrote the report say that the world “definitely isn’t on track” to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. World leaders signed up to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2oC, and ideally below 1.5oC. But at the moment, the world is heading for a rise of 3.2oC.
However, there is some encouraging news in the report, including the fact that at least 18 countries have continued to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions for longer than ten years. This shows that it can be done if countries put the effort in.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries.”
However, he added that any further delay in taking immediate action will mean we “miss a rapidly closing window” to limit warming.
SO WHAT DO COUNTRIES NEED TO DO?
Everything, really. Stop building any new power plants or factories that burn fossil fuels, make sure that homes are more energy efficient and use electricity rather than gas for heating and cooking, and electrify any transport that uses fossil fuels.
The report also looks at issues of global inequality. At the moment, there is nowhere enough money going to developing countries to help them do everything they need to do to fight climate change. The scientists say that there is enough money in the world to change that, but that wealthy countries must work harder to help poorer nations.
AND ARE WE DOING IT?
Not yet, no. Countries have reduced the rates of deforestation and made progress in other areas, but every country needs to do more, and do it faster.
One aspect of the report that many people aren’t happy with is that it relies heavily on countries using technology to remove carbon directly from the air, or from factories and power stations before it can get into the atmosphere. At the press conference launching the report, the scientists said that “carbon dioxide removal [CDR] is essential to achieve net zero [having zero carbon emissions overall]”. The big problem is that most CDR methods either need much more research or funding to improve them, or have only been shown to work on a very small scale.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DO GO PAST 2oC OF WARMING?
The longer we put off action, the harder it will be to reduce global warming, “and that is a very, very clear message of the report,” said Professor Jim Skea, the lead author. The report also makes it clear that the economic benefit to the world will be greater than the cost of tackling warming.
But if we do miss the target, the authors say it will still be possible, but harder, to reduce warming.
“With climate change, every tenth of a degree matters,” says Niklas Hagelberg, a climate change expert at the UN Environment Programme. “1.5°C is better than 1.6°C and 1.6°C is better than 1.7°C. This battle does not end when – or if – we overshoot 1.5°C. We must continue decarbonisation and carbon removal until we reach net zero.”