In a blunt assessment of the effects of global warming, “the time for talk has passed, and the time to act is now,” according to a new United Nations report on how to curb the worst impacts of climate change.
Rapid mitigation measures – reductions in fossil fuels and better building practices – are urgently needed to avoid unsustainable global warming, according to the report.
In fact, the report says that without immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is “beyond reach.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed “a litany of broken climate promises” by governments and corporations, accusing them of stoking global warming by clinging to harmful fossil fuels.
“It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” he said. “We are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts.”
Total net greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise during the years 2010-2019, according to the report. Although the rate of growth was lower than 2000-2009, the average annual emissions were higher than in any previous decade on record.
“This report tells us we’re still not doing enough to cut carbon emissions,” United Nations Environment Programme executive director Inger Andersen said. “The last two decades saw the highest increase in carbon emissions in human history, even though we know the trouble we are in.
“The next decade cannot follow the same pattern if we are to hold warming this century to 1.5 degrees. We have the knowledge and the technology to get this done,” Andersen said.
The environmental group Climate Nexus said the main takeaway from the report is that “we must wind down dependence on fossil fuels by scaling up renewables that are now incredibly cheap and available when political barriers are overcome, to deeply reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible.”
Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are considered the most authoritative assessments of the state of global warming, its impacts and the measures being taken to tackle it.
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit),” IPCC co-chair Jim Skea said. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
The cut-off point for data in the report was last fall, meaning that the impact of the war in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions on Russia weren’t included by the authors.
Last August, the IPCC said climate change caused by humans was “an established fact” and warned that some effects of global warming are already inevitable. In March, the panel published a report that outlined how further temperature increases will multiply the risk of floods, storms, drought and heat waves worldwide.