New climate change report says world has slim window

A United Nations panel of top scientists warned that the world now has just a slim chance to prevent the worst of climate change’s future harms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says humanity must act fast and cut carbon pollution by almost two-thirds by 2035.

The Paris climate agreement calls for nations to agree now on a climate action roadmap for the next 12 years. That’s why this official report was released now, calling for the world to cut 60% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, compared to 2019, to stay under the warming limit set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that rich countries should abandon coal, oil, and gas, as well as any new fossil fuel exploration by 2040. He called on them to step up action to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. Giving more leeway to developing nations, he still called for a goal of zero emissions by 2050, while previous reports and plans set that date about 10 years later.

With the world only a few tenths of a degree away from the globally accepted goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, scientists emphasized a sense of urgency.

While it’s easy to brush off a fraction of a degree of temperature change, many don’t realize the calamitous widespread effects it would have. That temperature hits “tipping points” where species will go extinct, coral reefs will die out, and ice sheets will melt forever irreversibly.

If the mass extinction of animal life isn’t a strong enough deterrent for some, the melting ice caps would lead to the sea level rising to several metres, wiping out beaches and coastal dwellings so popular in Thailand and around the world.

The new report also preemptively responds to anti-climate change activists painting the report as doomsday fearmongering. They reinforced the point that scientists don’t claim that the world will end and all of humanity will die once the threshold is passed. Rather, living conditions will worsen at a faster pace and climate disasters like extreme weather that has increased in recent years will be accelerated even more.

The IPCC says that we may reach that 1.5-degree threshold sometime this decade. The world may be on an irreversible path to it by the time the next report comes out from the group of Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientists. Some of the experts on the panel believe that path is already inevitable.

The world’s reliance on fossil fuels and current consumption and production trends will undisputedly result in a catastrophic milestone being reached. But the UN Secratary-General is hopeful that the world can band together and take major action before the 1.5-degree limit is passed, even though the world is far off course now.

Recent developments have taken steps in the wrong direction too. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an uptick in coal and natural gas consumption. And the US just approved the huge Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska, which could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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