In spectacular figures, the climate fight: it is not too late to act

As the Portfolio reported, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) III painted a devastating picture of the state of climate change. summary of its working group. According to this despite the measures taken so far, further urgent action is needed in most areas to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. This practically confirms previous scientific evaluations, but the report also contains many interesting new details, some of which we present using the graphs in the material.

The current one, nearly 3,000 pages long report The main finding is that, although the rate of global average temperature increase (compared to 1850-1900) is likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 21st century, a limit set by the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Member States as the main target – but there is still some chance of avoiding it.

To do so, however, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must fall into a sustained and steep decline before 2025 and fall by 43% by 2030 compared to 2019, increasing to 84% by 2050. In order to meet the secondary target of the Paris Climate Agreement, which is to keep warming below 2 degrees, emissions would need to be cut by 27% by 2030 and by 63% by 2050, the report shows.

All this should be achieved after a further increase in anthropogenic GHG emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the previous decade. On the positive side, growth has slowed somewhat compared to the 2000s. In addition to carbon dioxide from energy production and use, emissions from land use CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases also account for a large share of total emissions. Although there was a minimal reduction in emissions in 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, which is not shown in the figure below from the report, it rose to a new record in 2021.

Emissions have increased in almost all regions since 1990, but are unequally distributed in terms of both current and cumulative levels of emissions since 1850. In terms of aggregate output, North America and Europe still lead, but due to economic growth in East Asia, especially China, current emissions have long been the highest here. Per capita emissions in North America are by far the highest, more than double that of Europe, which is already lower than in South America and the Caribbean, despite higher economic development.

The report is in keeping with tradition presents possible future developments in emissions and warming in the form of several scenarios. Scenario C1 presents the best possible scenario (warming up to 1.5 degrees), while scenario C8 projects the largest warming of more than 4 degrees out of the probabilities examined. Based on the climate policy measures known at the time of writing at the time of writing, global average temperatures will increase by 3.2 degrees from baseline (2.2-3.5 degrees) by the end of the century, as indicated by scenarios C5-C7.

The rate of warming could be higher than 4 degrees in the event of an unfavorable turnaround in current technological and climate policy trends, but the report does not completely rule out the possibility of maintaining or continuing the measures known at the end of 2020 if climate sensitivity is higher. for central estimates. As a result of the above, the authors of the report have not yet taken into account the commitments made at the UN Climate Summit in November 2021, which, if fulfilled, could significantly improve the prospects for reducing emissions. Warming is now above 1 degree Celsius.

Achieving the 1.5 degree target would require a state of climate neutrality or carbon neutrality by 2050, when the remaining GHG emissions would already be offset by natural carbon sinks (mainly oceans, forests) and negative emission technologies capable of extracting atmospheric CO2. There are several ways to achieve this net zero emissions, but all of them must be accompanied by profound, rapid and lasting emission reductions in the transport, real estate, agricultural, industrial and energy sectors.

Looking at the current decade, the greatest potential for reducing emissions lies in the use of solar energy, but wind energy, halting deforestation, increasing afforestation, increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of agriculture and electrification could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by billions of tonnes. According to the report, increasing the use of nuclear energy and biofuels, which are currently hotly debated, can also make a major contribution to reducing emissions.

Looking to the future, it is hopeful that the unit cost of clean energy technologies such as photovoltaic and concentrated solar energy, wind energy and electric vehicle batteries has declined significantly since the turn of the millennium, and their market share is mostly growing exponentially. This, of course, does not close the main finding that further progress is needed in these areas as part of stepping up climate protection efforts.

One of the most interesting parts of the report shows the potential for emission reductions on the demand side. According to this, to a very large extent, A major shift to a sustainable, healthy diet could reduce global emissions by up to billions of tonnes by 2050. Increasing the share of teleworking, public transport, cycling and walking, urban greening (such as planting flat roofs with plants), more efficient use of energy and raw materials, such as moving towards longer-lasting, repairable products and recycling also has great potential in this regard. All this presupposes significant and wide-ranging changes in lifestyle and behavior, which in many cases are still in their infancy.

One of the novelties of the report is that it also examines the expected impact of climate protection options on other sustainability goals. Other sustainability goals include eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring access to quality education and clean water, achieving gender equality or even peace and justice. The correlation, according to the report, is mostly positive: for example, the spread of solar energy contributes to poverty reduction, the growth of health, prosperity and the economy, the development of industry, innovation and infrastructure, or even the development of sustainable cities and communities.

Another example is the electrification of urban energy systems or the shift to cycling, electric cycling, public transport and other forms of non-motorized transport to bring gender equality closer, according to the report. Reducing food loss and waste, as well as many climate protection measures in urban environments, is one of the goals of peace and social justice.

For some purposes, the relationship includes both positive and “compromise” effects. Remaining with solar energy is the goal of eradicating hunger, ensuring clean water, responsible consumption and production, and the sustainability of terrestrial life. Finally, there are some contexts that are likely to be reconciled with other sustainability goals only at the cost of compromises. In the case of solar energy, the report does not indicate this, but in the case of, for example, nuclear energy or ecosystem restoration / afforestation; in the former case, water protection, and in the latter, economic growth is such an area.

The IPCC report on climate change is the most prestigious scientific report in the world with unquestionable credibility, with virtually all UN member states participating in its preparation and adoption. In the history of the report since 1990, it is now referred to as the sixth but more accurate reporting cycles, as the three IPCC working groups approach the issue from different perspectives and issue three separate reports within each cycle, which together provide a comprehensive picture of the current situation. The first element of the current sixth cycle was the report of the first working group assessing the state of the climate system in August 2021, followed by the second working group’s report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in February 2022, and the third working group’s report on climate change mitigation on 4 April. the current reporting cycle.

Images source: IPCC, cover image: Getty Images

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