Humanity must act quickly and decisively to avert the worst climate-fueled disasters — and it has the technological and economic tools to do so, if entrenched “status quo” actors and political barriers can be overcome, the world’s top body of climate scientists said yesterday. Humanity must phase out fossil fuel extraction and combustion and immediately cease constructing new fossil fuel infrastructure, the UN’s IPCC report said.
Pledges by the world’s governments, even if fulfilled, will not limit global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, and the report represents “a litany of broken climate promises … a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters. The report clearly called out a constructive path forward that held out hope — renewable energy has become so cheap in recent years that transitioning the global economy off of fossil fuels would only impact global GDP growth by one-tenth of one percent, before accounting for the costs of increasingly catastrophic climate-fueled disasters.
The report follows earlier IPCC reports laying out the unequivocal evidence of humans’ causation of climate change last August, and describing the “atlas of human suffering” caused by its impacts in late February.
Often described as “low-hanging fruit,” immediate action to plug methane leaks from gas wells, pipelines, and stoves are some of the most efficient ways to limit near-term warming because methane traps heat so much more potently than carbon dioxide but stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time. The report, and its authors, also stressed the necessity of equitably cutting greenhouse gas emissions and implementing carbon drawdown policies. “If you do that at the expense of justice, of poverty eradication and the inclusion of people,” Fatima Denton, one of the report’s 278 authors, told Thomson Reuters, “then you’re back at the starting block.”
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