Scientists are observing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate across the whole climate system and have issued a stark warning to reduce emissions or face devastating effects of global warming.
This is according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades.
The report finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
The report, IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC, shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.
“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”
The report emphasises that climate change is already affecting every region on Earth in multiple ways, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, drought, more frequent and severe coastal flooding, amplified permafrost thawing, loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
The evidence is clear in the report that carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change, and human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate. “It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said Masson-Delmotte.
“For thirty years we have known about the risks of dangerous climate change but done literally nothing,” says Anders Wijkman, Honorary President of the Club of Rome and chairman of the Governing Board of Climate-KIC.
“Now it may be too late to transform the system in an orderly fashion. But we have to try. The wasteful way we use resources is key and the best we can do is to lower taxes on labor and increase taxes on the use of nature, including carbon emissions.”
Report no surprise for industry
Industry reactions suggest that the report’s contents are of no surprise, however quantifiable action must be ramped up by every actor in the sector.
Phil Thompson, CEO and managing director at Balance Power, says: “The new IPCC report provides a summary of the best available science, although it contains no real surprises.
“It does however, confirm what we already know – that we must urgently shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing. The solutions will vary from country to country, but in the UK, land diversification to accommodate green energy projects such as solar and battery storage, is, and will continue to be, absolutely integral if we are to tackle the climate emergency.”
Steve Malkin, founder and CEO of the Planet Mark, says: “The IPCC’s report is unequivocal; action must be taken now to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Many companies have been measuring and reducing their carbon emissions for years, but today’s report highlights the fact that we need to ensure that every organisation in the UK and beyond follows suit.
“This is more than merely a box-ticking exercise for companies – consistent year-on-year carbon reductions are achievable and create quantifiable business value, while also accelerating positive impacts on the climate crisis and society.”
Stew Horne, Head of Policy at the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, said the IPCC report “raises the alarm on the need for immediate action to avoid the point of irreversible climate damage”.
“With the eyes of the world on the UK as we build up to COP26 in November, the UK government must now show real leadership by recommitting to delivering a greener recovery. The UK government has set some of the most ambitious climate pledges of any major economy in the world.
“The upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy, Net Zero Strategy and Treasury Spending Review, will provide the practical steps to reduce carbon emissions and must ensure a fair and equitable transition to net zero. Greener ways of doing things which currently feel unobtainable or undesirable for many people, must be made affordable and attractive.”
Horne added: “Recent analysis from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) shows that the changes we need to make in the UK remain achievable – and will also bring wide-ranging benefits. For example, the costs of upgrading existing housing stock, to improve insulation and provide low carbon heating, will be more than outweighed by the lower energy bills achieved.”