Warming is “unambiguously worsening” conditions that contribute to clashes and deepen the pain for civilians, a new study says.
If you’ve read the work of brave journalists in Mariupol this week, you know that the people of that city are trying to survive not just shelling by Russian forces. They are also trying to survive without water.
This is, unfortunately, a recurrent feature of war.
We witnessed it in Syria in 2016, for instance, when the residents of Aleppo, the northern city besieged by government forces, were deprived of running water. We saw it again the following year, when residents of the capital, Damascus, had their taps run dry as both sides in the war accused each other of damaging water infrastructure.
In 2018, clashes between rival groups destroyed water tanks at a hospital near the city of Hodeidah, in Yemen. In 2019, Al Shabab, an extremist group, blew up a water tank in Somalia.
These are documented in a logbook of human cruelty, published this week by an Oakland-based research group called the Pacific Institute. It’s called the Water Conflict Chronology, and it enumerates episodes throughout human history where access to water has triggered unrest or become a weapon of war. Sometimes water resources become what the report calls a “casualty” of conflict: Tankers are blown up, wells are poisoned.
Climate change can intensify the risks. A hotter planet often makes dry places drier and hotter, supercharging competition over an already-scarce resource. How much of a role climate change plays in each conflict is hard to know, and, most certainly, poor management and rising demand for water play a role equally if not more important.
But, said Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, who has studied water conflicts for decades, “climate change is unambiguously worsening the very conditions that contribute to water conflicts: drought, scarcity and inequities.”
Water conflicts have gone up sharply in the last 20 years, the study found. My colleagues have written about many of them. Farmers and herders have clashed in parts of Africa over access to water, conflicts all the more acute in a region that has suffered from abnormally bad droughts. Antigovernment protests have erupted in Iran over scarce water. Water-sharing has riven several former Soviet states of Central Asia that straddle the Amu Darya River.
Since 2000, Gleick pointed out, a fourth of the conflicts triggered by access to water have been in three water-scarce areas pummeled by global warming: the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Separately, the United Nations University estimated that 19 countries in Africa with a total population of 500 million people face water insecurity. At the top of that list are three countries that are no strangers to conflict: Chad, Niger and Somalia. Most nations on the continent face higher levels of risk to extreme weather events, that study adds, as climate change makes them more frequent and more severe, outpacing the countries’ ability to adapt.
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In wealthy countries, few places are feeling the impacts of climate change on the water supply as acutely as Gleick’s home state of California.
The long-running drought affecting the Western United States is likely to go on through this spring, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. As my colleague Maggie Astor reported, most of California is returning to “severe” or “extreme” drought after a brief respite over the winter. In Central California, the fruit and nut basket of the country, the three-year precipitation total is “likely to be the lowest since modern record-keeping began in 1922,” Maggie reported.
Antarctica reaches 40C above normal at same time as north pole hits levels usually seen later in year
Startling heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles are causing alarm among climate scientists, who have warned the “unprecedented” events could signal faster and abrupt climate breakdown.
Temperatures in Antarctica reached record levels at the weekend, an astonishing 40C above normal in places.
At the same time, weather stations near the north pole also showed signs of melting, with some temperatures 30C above normal, hitting levels normally attained far later in the year.
At this time of year, the Antarctic should be rapidly cooling after its summer, and the Arctic only slowly emerging from its winter, as days lengthen. For both poles to show such heating at once is unprecedented.
The rapid rise in temperatures at the poles is a warning of disruption in Earth’s climate systems. Last year, in the first chapter of a comprehensive review of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of unprecedented warming signals already occurring, resulting in some changes – such as polar melt – that could rapidly become “irreversible”.
The danger is twofold: heatwaves at the poles are a strong signal of the damage humanity is wreaking on the climate; and the melting could also trigger further cascading changes that will accelerate climate breakdown.
As polar sea ice melts, particularly in the Arctic, it reveals dark sea that absorbs more heat than reflective ice, warming the planet further. Much of the Antarctic ice covers land, and its melting raises sea levels.
Scientists warned that the events unfolding were “historic”, “unprecedented” and “dramatic”.
The Associated Press reported that one weather station in Antarctica beat its all time record by 15C, while another coastal station used to deep freezes at this time of year was 7C above freezing.
Exclusive: Experts say the $150m project, due to be de-orbited next year, provides vital data on forests and the carbon stored in them
Forest experts and scientists are asking Nasa to extend the life of a “key” climate and biodiversity sensor due to be destroyed in the Earth’s atmosphere early next year.
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (Gedi) mission – pronounced like Jedi in Star Wars – was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2018, and has provided the first 3D map of the world’s forests.
Data from the Nasa mission, which has used billions of laser beam signals to measure the height, shape and health of the Earth’s trees since April 2019, has been helping scientists answer questions about land-use change, a key driver of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, including how much carbon trees store and the effect of forest fires on the atmosphere.
The $150m project is scheduled to be “de-orbited” from the ISS early next year and the sensor – roughly the size of a fridge – will be incinerated in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers overseeing the project, based at the University of Maryland, have asked for an extension to allow Gedi to finish its work and calibrate the results with other satellites due to launch this decade that will monitor the planet’s ecosystems. Early results from the project indicate there could be much more carbon stored on land than previously thought.
While they acknowledge Gedi’s lifetime has already been extended once, in March 2021, the researchers say extensions on the ISS are common and the tool is providing crucial data, including helping to monitor the Cop26 commitment from 142 countries to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
“The biggest uncertainty we have in terms of atmospheric CO2 concentrations driving climate change is the balance between deforestation and subsequent regrowth. Gedi is helping us address that,” said Prof Ralph Dubayah, principal investigator on the mission. “If you want to plant a trillion trees, go ahead. But you have to know what you’re starting with to know what kind of impact that’s going to have.”
Leading forest experts have backed calls for a stay of execution. They called the sensor a “key tool” for understanding global heating and described its pending destruction as a waste of money.
When contacted by the Guardian, Nasa said Gedi has already been extended beyond its prime mission to allow for additional data collection and is scheduled to be replaced by another sensor early next year.
Although scientists know the planet’s trees are an enormous carbon store holding the equivalent of nearly a century’s worth of annual fossil fuel emissions at the current rate, basic questions about the size and structure of forests remain unanswered.
The uncertainty poses difficulties for researchers tracking emissions from land-use change.
“Considering that we have to accelerate climate action, and forests are something we can use for mitigation, it is critical that Gedi meets its scientific goals,” said Laura Duncanson, a research scientist on the Gedi team.
Inge Jonckheere, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) author and head of remote sensing and climate change at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “Every country can come up with its own definition of a forest. Countries can just fill in numbers and then everybody has to take them as the truth. But with satellites, we can check them,” said Jonckheere.
Fred Stolle, deputy director of the forest programme at the World Resource Institute, said his organisation was adding Gedi data to its Global Forest Watch platform, one of the primary free sources of reliable information about the world’s forests.
“Currently, our main tool is tree cover from the Landsat programme. But now we are shifting to tree height because it is a better indicator of forest health using Gedi,” he said. “The data allows us to find important areas of forest and say: do not touch this.”
Diego Saez Gil, head of Pachama, a carbon offsetting firm that uses AI and remote sensing to verify and monitor carbon capture by forests, said Gedi provided “the best available data to estimate the carbon stored in forests”.
“The longer Gedi stays in orbit, the more spatial coverage we can get, improving the quality of biomass estimates. If Gedi were to remain in orbit, we could have long-term continuous records of biomass.”
Matthew Hansen, a remote sensing scientist whose data is used as the scientific standard in deforestation research, said the combination of GEDI and other Nasa land monitoring enabled researchers to “assess deforestation and associated emissions, as well as restoration efforts”.
A growing chorus of young people is focusing on climate solutions. “‘It’s too late’ means ‘I don’t have to do anything, and the responsibility is off me.’”
Alaina Wood is well aware that, planetarily speaking, things aren’t looking so great. She’s read the dire climate reports, tracked cataclysmic weather events and gone through more than a few dark nights of the soul.
She is also part of a growing cadre of people, many of them young, who are fighting climate doomism, the notion that it’s too late to turn things around. They believe that focusing solely on terrible climate news can sow dread and paralysis, foster inaction, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
With the war in Ukraine prompting a push for ramped up production of fossil fuels, they say it’s ever more pressing to concentrate on all the good climate work, especially locally, that is being done. “People are almost tired of hearing how bad it is; the narrative needs to move onto solutions,” said Ms. Wood, 25, a sustainability scientist who communicates much of her climate messaging on TikTok, the most popular social media platform among young Americans. “The science says things are bad. But it’s only going to get worse the longer it takes to act.”
Some climate advocates refer to the stance taken by Ms. Wood and her allies as “OK, Doomer,” a riff on “OK, Boomer,” the Gen Z rebuttal to condescension from older folks.
If awareness about the climate crisis has never been greater, so, too, has been a mounting sense of dread about its unfolding effects, particularly among the young. Two-thirds of Americans thought the government was doing too little to fight climate change, according to a 2020 Pew study, while a survey last year of 10,000 teens and young adults in 10 countries found that three quarters were frightened of the future.
There is also growing consensus that depression and eco-anxiety are perfectly natural responses to the steady barrage of scary environmental news. Stalled climate legislation in Congress along with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its implications for the environmental crisis, has done little to help.
Yet people like Ms. Wood, and her thriving community of climate communicators, believe that staying stuck in climate doom only helps preserve a status quo reliant on consumerism and fossil fuels. Via social media, she and her fellow “eco-creators” present alternative narratives that highlight positive climate news as well as ways people can fight the crisis in their everyday lives.
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The latest wave of climate deniers claim green schemes are ‘unaffordable’. Success stories from around Europe prove that’s not true
world went nuclear. Over the weekend, temperatures at some weather stations in the Arctic rose to 30C above normal. Simultaneously, at certain weather stations in the Antarctic they hit 40C above normal. Two events, albeit off the scale, do not make a trend. But as part of a gathering record of extreme and chaotic weather, these unprecedented, simultaneous anomalies are terrifying.
On their heels came news of another horrific event: mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef during a La Niña year. La Niña is the cool phase of the Pacific cycle. Until now, widespread bleaching had happened only during the warmer El Niño years. The likely impacts of the next El Niño are too awful to contemplate.
We knew that climate breakdown would happen abruptly. Earth systems that seemed stable, lives that seemed safe, would slip from under us. All that we took for granted would suddenly be in play. It could be happening now.
A characteristic of complex systems is that it’s hard to tell how close to their critical thresholds they may be until they have been crossed. Are we now passing the tipping points? The only rational response is to act as if it’s not too late, and as if we have the briefest of opportunities to stabilise the system before it slides.
Some have begun to step up. In Italy, the government provides a remarkable 110% of the cost of home energy improvements, which it pays as a five-year tax credit (the 10% covers financial and transaction costs). This superbonus scheme pays for everything: insulation, ventilation, new windows and doors, solar panels, heat pumps. It has design flaws – for example, it creates no incentive for builders to limit their costs and was, at first, open to fraud – but these issues could be easily addressed.
Finland has equipped roughly one-third of its homes with heat pumps. It installs about twice as many every year as the UK does, though it has only about a 10th of the number of homes. Almost every day, I hear professional ignoramuses announce that “heat pumps wouldn’t work in our cold climate”. But they work just fine in Finland, which is much colder.
The Netherlands proposes to disconnect all its homes from the gas grid. In Estonia, the capital city, Tallinn, and most other counties offer free public transport. If Italy and Estonia can afford it, so can we.
As the Climate Change Committee points out, if gas prices remain as high as they are at the moment, decarbonising the whole economy would save money (0.5% of GDP). It would also lift people out of fuel poverty, which is greatly exacerbated by leaky homes and a reliance on fossil fuels. It would ensure that we were no longer beholden to Vladimir Putin and other fossil-fuelled autocrats.
The truth is that we can’t afford not to transform our economies. It’s not decarbonisation that’s unaffordable; it’s climate breakdown. If climate systems tip, our money will be as worthless as Boris Johnson’s promises. Yet this government values it above life itself.
The Great Barrier Reef has been hit with a sixth mass coral bleaching event, the marine park’s authority has confirmed, with aerial surveys showing almost no reefs across a 1,200km stretch escaping the heat.
The Guardian understands a United Nations mission currently under way to check the health and management of the reef will be briefed on the initial findings of the surveys as early as Friday in Townsville.
The confirmation from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) marks an alarming milestone for the ocean icon, with 2022 going down as the first time mass bleaching has happened in a cooler La Niña year which scientists had hoped would be a period of recovery for corals.
Government scientists said the confirmation showed the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions that were driving the repeated mass bleachings.
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US scientists who analyzed the nesting trends of birds from egg samples collected in the Chicago area found that of the 72 species for which historical and modern data exists, around a third are now nesting much earlier in the year than before.
These species, including bluejays, yellow warblers and field sparrows, are now laying their first eggs 25 days earlier, on average, than they were 100 years ago, the research found. The heating of the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels, is seemingly upending a process that long appeared unshakeable.
Summer 2018 was devastating for European farmers. Rainfall levels across much of central Europe were up to 80% less than normal, and temperatures soared to record-breaking levels. Wildfires broke out in Nordic countries and across much of the European continent crops produced their lowest yields in decades.
But this wasn’t the end of it. Parched conditions and soaring temperatures returned to much of Europe in summer 2019 and 2020 too. Now a new study reveals that this multi-year drought has set a new benchmark, gaining itself the unwelcome crown of being the most intense drought event for Europe in the past 250 years.
Poring over climate records dating back to 1766, researchers discovered that the 2018 to 2020 European drought was unprecedented in its intensity, covering more than one-third of the continent for more than two years. Using climate model simulations the researchers show that Europe needs to brace itself for increasingly long and similarly intense droughts, persisting for as long as eight years under the intermediate emissions scenario and a terrifying 25 years in the worst-case scenario. Mitigation and adaptation measures are going to be crucial.
“The 2018–2020 drought event could be considered as a wake-up call on agricultural policies,” the researchers write in their paper published in the journal Earth’s Future.
We have reason for hope on climate change.
Pathways of global greenhouse gas emissions
Among the headline-grabbing wildfires, droughts and floods, it is easy to feel disheartened about climate change.
I felt this myself when a United Nations panel released the latest major report on global warming. It said that humanity was running out of time to avert some of the worst effects of a warming planet. Another report is coming tomorrow. So I called experts to find out whether my sense of doom was warranted.
To my relief, they pushed back against the notion of despair. The world, they argued, has made real progress on climate change and still has time to act. They said that any declaration of inevitable doom would be a barrier to action, alongside the denialism that Republican lawmakers have historically used to stall climate legislation. Such pushback is part of a budding movement: Activists who challenge climate dread recently took off on TikTok, my colleague Cara Buckley reported.
“Fear is useful to wake us up and make us pay attention,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, told me. “But if we don’t know what to do, it paralyzes us.”
In a climate change-focused survey of young people in 10 countries last year, 75 percent of respondents said the future was frightening. Some people now use therapy to calm their climate anxieties. Some have drastically changed their lives out of fear of a warming planet — even deciding not to have kids.
Climate change of course presents a huge challenge, threatening the world with more of the extreme weather we have seen over the past few years. And the situation is urgent: To meet President Biden’s climate goals, experts argue, Congress must pass the climate provisions of the Build Back Better Act this year.
But rather than seeing the climate challenge as overwhelming or hopeless, experts said, we should treat it as a call to action.
Reasons for hope
The world has made genuine progress in slowing climate change in recent years. In much of the world, solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal and gas. The cost of batteries has plummeted over the past few decades, making electric vehicles much more accessible. Governments and businesses are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy.
That is not enough to declare victory. The standard goal world leaders have embraced to avoid the worst consequences of climate change is to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Unfortunately, that does look increasingly unreachable, experts said.
But every drop in degrees matters. One-tenth of a degree may sound like very little, but it could save lives — by preventing more wildfires, droughts, floods and conflicts over dwindling resources.
And while the best outcome now seems doubtful, so does the worst. Scientists have long worried about runaway warming that generates out-of-control weather, leaves regions uninhabitable and wrecks ecosystems. But projections right now suggest that scenario is unlikely, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State.
Experts and advocates want to capture legitimate concerns and funnel them into action. The world’s governments and biggest businesses have set goals to reduce greenhouse emissions in the coming decades, but they will need the public’s help and support.
One model for this is road safety. Drivers can reduce their chances of crashes by driving carefully, but even the safest can be hit. The U.S. reduced car-crash deaths over several decades by passing sweeping laws and rules that required seatbelts, airbags and collapsible steering wheels; punished drunken driving; built safer roads and more — a collective approach.
The same type of path can work for climate change, experts said. Cutting individual carbon footprints is less important than systemic changes that governments and companies enact to help people live more sustainably. While individual action helps, it is no match for the impact of entire civilizations that have built their economies around burning carbon sources for energy.
The need for a sweeping solution can make the problem feel too big and individuals too small, again feeding into despair.
But experts said that individuals could still make a difference, by playing into a collective approach. You can convince friends and family to take the issue seriously, changing what politicians and policies they support. You can become involved in politics (including at the local level, where many climate policies are carried out). You can actively post about global warming on social media. You can donate money to climate causes.
The bottom line, experts repeatedly told me: Don’t give up on the future. Look for productive ways to prevent impending doom.
The panel produces a comprehensive overview of climate science once every six to eight years. It splits its findings into three reports. The first, on what’s driving global warming, came out last August. The second, on climate change’s effects on our world and our ability to adapt to them, was released in February. This is No. 3, on how we can cut emissions and limit further warming.
Without swift action, we’re headed for trouble.
The report makes it clear: Nations’ current pledges to curb greenhouse-gas emissions most likely will not stop global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, within the next few decades. And that’s assuming countries follow through. If they don’t, even more warming is in store.
That target — to prevent the average global temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels — is one many world governments have agreed to pursue. It sounds modest. But that number represents a host of sweeping changes that occur as greenhouse gases trap more heat on the planet’s surface, including deadlier storms, more intense heat waves, rising seas and extra strain on crops. Earth has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius on average since the 19th century.
Emissions are tied to economic growth and income.
So far, the world isn’t becoming more energy-efficient quickly enough to balance out continued growth in global economic activity, the report says.
Carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, buildings, farms and vehicles increased in the 2010s, outweighing the benefits from power plants’ switching to natural gas from coal and using more renewable sources such as wind and solar.
On the whole, it is the richest people and wealthiest nations that are heating up the planet. Worldwide, the richest 10 percent of households are responsible for between a third to nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The poorest 50 percent of households contribute around 15 percent of emissions.
Clean energy has become more affordable.
The prices of solar and wind energy, and electric vehicle batteries, have dropped significantly since 2010, the report finds. The result is that it may now be “more expensive” in some cases to maintain highly polluting energy systems than to switch to clean sources, the report says.
In 2020, solar and wind provided close to 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Average worldwide emissions grew much more slowly in the 2010s than they did in the 2000s, partly because of greater use of green energy.
It wasn’t obvious to scientists that this would happen so swiftly. In a 2011 report on renewables, the same panel noted that technological advances would probably make green energy cheaper, though it said it was hard to predict how much.
Still, altering the climate path won’t be easy or cheap.
The world needs to invest three to six times more than it’s currently spending on mitigating climate change if it wants to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the report says. Money is particularly short in poorer countries, which need trillions of dollars of investment each year this decade.
As nations drop fossil fuels, some economic disruption is inevitable, the report notes. Resources will be left in the ground unburned; mines and power plants will become financially unviable. The economic impact could be in the trillions of dollars, the report says.
Even so, simply keeping planned and existing fossil-fuel infrastructure up and running will pump enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the report says.
There are other steps that could help and wouldn’t break the bank.
The report looks at a host of other changes to societies that could reduce emissions, including more energy-efficient buildings, more recycling and more white-collar work going remote and virtual.
These changes do not have to be economy-dampening chores, the report emphasizes. Some, like better public transit and more walkable urban areas, have benefits for air pollution and overall well-being, said Joyashree Roy, an economist at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok who contributed to the report. “People are demanding more healthy cities and greener cities,” she said.
In all, steps that would cost less than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide saved could lower global emissions to about half the 2019 level by 2030, the report says. Other steps remain pricier, such as capturing more of the carbon dioxide from the gases that pour from smokestacks at power plants, the report says.
The world also needs to remove carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. Planting more trees is pretty much the only way this is being done at large scale right now, the report says. Other methods, like using chemicals to extract atmospheric carbon or adding nutrients to the oceans to stimulate photosynthesis in tiny marine plants, are still in early development.
“We cannot ignore how much technology can help,” said Joni Jupesta, an author of the report with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth in Kyoto, Japan. “Not every country has a lot of natural resources.”
What does IPCC working group 3 say?
The world has only a narrow chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, and is falling far behind on making the changes needed to transform the global economy to a low-carbon footing.
Overshooting 1.5C is now “almost inevitable”, but the overshoot could be temporary and temperatures could be returned to 1.5C by the end of this century if countries seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically this decade.
Technologies such as carbon dioxide removal are also likely to be needed, to limit and reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, and the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050.
What about fossil fuels?
The world is planning far too many new coal-fired power plants, gas installations, and other fossil fuel infrastructure to stay within the carbon budgets needed to meet the 1.5C goal. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) holds open the door to technologies such as carbon capture and storage that could be used to neutralise emissions from new power plants, it makes it clear that the only realistic scenarios for keeping within 1.5C in the long term involve effectively phasing out coal use.
What about tree planting?
Preserving the world’s existing forests, peatlands and other natural carbon stores must be a priority, and growing new forests and restoring soils and landscapes will be essential. But no amount of tree planting will be enough to cancel out the effects of continued fossil fuel emissions.
Is it possible to take carbon dioxide out of the air?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the name given to technologies that take carbon dioxide from major sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, and then liquefy the gas to be pumped underground for long-term storage, for instance in depleted oil or gas fields. This technology is likely to be expensive, and though it has been discussed for two decades, is currently only used at a small scale.
Another form of technology is direct air capture, which involves removing carbon from the atmosphere by chemical means. These technologies are experimental and in the early stages of development.
As the IPCC found that exceeding 1.5C was “almost inevitable”, these “negative emissions” technologies are likely to be necessary to ensure that any temperature overshoot is temporary. But the IPCC was also clear that they cannot substitute for ending our dependence on fossil fuels now.
Robert Gross, as professor of energy policy at Imperial College London and director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said: “We will need not just net zero but to start to remove CO2 from the air. We cannot do one instead of the other, but we have reached the point where it is likely that humanity will need to do both to avoid dangerous climate change.”
Will we need to change our lifestyles?
Yes. The IPCC has made it clear that everything will need to change: energy, buildings, transport, food and industry. This will include “demand management”, or reducing our consumption and demand for energy-intensive goods. Dietary changes, especially eating less meat, will be needed to reduce methane in particular. But there are vast inequalities in consumption – the 10% of biggest emitters account for a disproportionate amount of global emissions, and these people could still enjoy comfortable and even luxurious lifestyles while reducing their environmental impact.
Daniela Schmidt, a professor at the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, said: “A small minority of 10% of the people on this planet are producing between 34% and 45% of the global carbon emissions, which is a staggering number. Per capita consumption is a strong expression of decisions of the few impacting the many which are often also the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.”
Will it cost a lot?
Investment is currently falling far short of the sums needed to transform the global economy, but the cost of most of the key technologies needed has plummeted in recent years, by as much as 85% for renewable energy. Investment must be increased at least sixfold to make the changes needed, but the costs will be manageable: by 2050, the costs will amount to a few percentage points of global GDP, and this does not take account of the sizeable additional benefits, in health and wellbeing.
Why is this working group 3?
This is the third instalment of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report since 1988, covering ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It follows a first section published last August that warned human changes to the climate were becoming irreversible; and a second section published at the end of February warning of catastrophic impacts.
What will be the impact of the IPCC report?
Governments will meet in Egypt this November to discuss ratcheting up their targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, in line with a 1.5C target, having failed to reach the effort required at last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow. But they will face a world riven by war and geopolitical tension from the war in Ukraine, scarred by soaring energy and food prices and fears of rampant inflation. The UN and the hosts of Cop27 are hoping governments will keep prioritising the climate amid these pressing concerns.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, made a joint statement with the UN’s climate chief, Patricia Espinosa, and Alok Sharma, the UK cabinet minister who presided over Cop26. They called on governments to put new targets and policies in place: “Despite the urgency of our task, there is hope. The window for action has not yet closed. The report highlights that the falling costs of renewables and green technologies present significant opportunities for progress. There is also clear evidence that – with timely and at scale cuts to emissions – countries can pursue a mitigation pathway consistent with limiting global warming as envisaged in the Paris agreement and further reflected in the Glasgow climate pact, while also developing their economies through a just transition and in a sustainable way. Increasingly, transitioning to a low carbon and resilient economy is the safest and most competitive choice any country, business or investor can make.”