The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared a “code red for humanity” in a recent report, giving a peek of the world’s future.
Global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control, a U.N. climate panel said in a landmark report Monday, warning the world is already certain to face further climate disruptions for decades, if not centuries, to come.
U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the report as a “code red for humanity.”
“The alarm bells are deafening,” he said in a statement. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
Humans are “unequivocally” to blame, the report from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said.
In the panel view, “rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could limit some impacts, but others are now locked in. The deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes and other weather extremes that are already happening will only become more severe.”
In an interview with Reuters, activist Greta Thunberg called on the public and media to put “massive” pressure on governments to act.
Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific studies, the IPCC report gives the most comprehensive and detailed picture yet of how climate change is altering the natural world – and what could still be ahead.
Unless immediate, rapid and large-scale action is taken to reduce emissions, the report says, the average global temperature is likely to reach or cross the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming threshold within 20 years.
The pledges to cut emissions made so far are nowhere near enough to start reducing level of greenhouse gases – mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels – accumulated in the atmosphere.
Governments and campaigners have started reacting to the findings with alarm.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said he hoped the report would be “a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow”.
U.S. President, Joe Biden, tweeted Monday: “We can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”
The report says emissions “unequivocally caused by human activities” have already pushed the average global temperature up 1.1C from its pre-industrial average – and would have raised it 0.5C further without the tempering effect of pollution in the atmosphere.
That means that, even as societies move away from fossil fuels, temperatures will be pushed up again by the loss of the airborne pollutants that come with them and currently reflect away some of the sun’s heat.
A rise of 1.5C is generally seen as the most that humanity could cope with, without suffering widespread economic and social upheaval.
The 1.1C warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather. This year, heat waves killed hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and smashed records around the world. Wildfires fuelled by heat and drought are sweeping away entire towns in the U.S. West, releasing record carbon dioxide emissions from Siberian forests, and driving Greeks to flee their homes by ferry.
The outcome saw 500,000 acres of forest burning in California, while in Venice tourists waded through ankle-deep water in St. Mark’s Square.
Locals evacuate the area with their animals, as a wildfire rages in the suburb of Thrakomakedones, north of Athens, Greece, on August 7, 2021.
Further warming could mean that in some places, people could die just from going outside.
“The more we push the climate system … the greater the odds we cross thresholds that we can only poorly project,” said IPCC co-author, Bob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University.
Some changes are already “locked in”. Greenland’s sheet of land-ice is “virtually certain” to continue melting, and raising the sea level, which will continue to rise for centuries to come as the oceans warm and expand.
“We are now committed to some aspects of climate change, some of which are irreversible for hundreds to thousands of years,” said IPCC co-author, Tamsin Edwards, a climate scientist at King’s College, London. “But the more we limit warming, the more we can avoid or slow down those changes.”
But even to slow climate change, the report says, the world is running out of time.
If emissions are slashed in the next decade, average temperatures could still be up 1.5C by 2040 and possibly 1.6C by 2060 before stabilising.
And if instead the world continues on its the current trajectory, the rise could be 2.0C by 2060 and 2.7C by the century’s end.
The Earth has not been that warm since the Pliocene Epoch roughly 3 million years ago – when humanity’s first ancestors were appearing, and the oceans were 25 metres (82 feet) higher than they are today.
It could get even worse, if warming triggers feedback loops that release even more climate-warming carbon emissions, such as the melting of Arctic permafrost or the dieback of global forests.
Under these high-emissions scenarios, Earth could broil at temperatures 4.4C above the preindustrial average by the last two decades of this century.
Edward Parson, faculty co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA, told USA TODAY that while climate change is a result of human actions, steps like turning down thermostats would need the collective effort of the more than 7 billion people on Earth.
“It doesn’t matter whether there’s a ton of carbon emitted in California, or Canada or India, each is contributing the same to climate change. So, we need to get the whole world involved, and that’s what makes this such a challenging problem,” said Dave Rapson, an associate professor in the department of economics and co-director of the Davis Energy Economics Program at UC Davis.
Rapson further said it is not too late to try to fix Earth’s problems, as long as the amount of human emissions drops over the next several decades.
Rapson believes one issue that would make a huge difference is carbon pricing, which includes taxing greenhouse gas emissions or carbon content of fossil fuels, and making corporations decide whether they’d want to pay for how much carbon they emit, according to World Bank.
Frances Moore, an assistant professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis, suggested investing in public transportation, as well as engaging in talks within a person’s community that could lead to the election of leaders who are conscious of the environment.
Moore opined that the Earth can heal, but humans have changed the planet so much that it be nearly impossible to go back, adding that disasters similar to the Dixie Fire, the largest single blaze in California’s history, will occur.
“We don’t have the option now of going back to a world with no climate change impacts. The report makes that clear that the changes that already happened are kind of essentially irreversible,” Moore said. “No matter what happens to emissions in the next few decades, there’s going to be more warming.”
For the first time, a new UN report states unequivocally that “human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land” — and that global temperature rise will almost certainly reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next 20 years.
According to Matt McGrath, the report found that this level of warming will fuel more frequent extreme weather events, such as the heat waves that hit the Pacific Northwest in June and the floods that devastated Germany in July.
According to the report’s authors, countries must cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century, which can be done by investing in clean technology and natural climate solutions.
If global temperatures continue to rise at their current rates, 98 percent of emperor penguin colonies are expected to be wiped out by 2100, according to a new study. At least two-thirds of colonies could become “quasi-extinct” — meaning they are doomed to die out, even if a few individuals remain — by 2050, researchers estimate.
Over the past two decades, the number of people at risk from flooding has increased tenfold, as more people have moved into flood-prone areas, according to a new study.
Shyla Raghav, Conservation International’s vice president of climate strategy, said “Financing and equal access to resources for vulnerable populations must be at the core of our efforts to address climate change.”
The 40 world leaders Summit will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow and underscore the urgency and the economic benefits of stronger climate action.
A key goal of both the Leaders’ Summit and COP26 will be to catalyse efforts that keep that 1.5-degree goal within reach. The Summit will also highlight examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts.