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‘Now or never’: New UN report sees narrow path to avert climate catastrophe

For the world to have a chance of preventing catastrophic climate change, it needs an immediate, collective and Herculean effort to phase out fossil fuels and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

And even if humanity succeeds, global warming is likely to at least temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, the ambitious goal of the historic Paris climate accords.

That is the conclusion of the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on Monday, which focuses on what is needed to address a threat that is already causing suffering and devastation in the world. whole world. Although there are signs of climate action, the world remains a long way from meeting international targets.

“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” Jim Skea, who co-chairs the panel that drafted the report, said in a statement. “Without immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, this will be impossible.”

To meet the 1.5 degree target, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by around 43% below 2019 levels by the end of the decade and by 84% by 2050. , said the IPCC. However, existing and yet to be built fossil fuel infrastructure is expected to dump enough pollution into the atmosphere in the coming years to put the 1.5 degree goal out of reach.

As the report points out, the solution is clear: the world, especially the wealthy countries most responsible for fueling the crisis, must stop investing in dirty energy and act quickly to replace coal, oil and gas by renewable energies, such as solar and wind. Political forces continue to be the main obstacles to aggressive action.

“The interplay between politics, economics and power relations is key to explaining why broad commitments do not always translate into urgent action,” reads a technical paper accompanying the report.

The assessment comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens to additional delay efforts to address climate change in the United States and abroad. The Biden administration has set ambitious climate goals, but now faces pressure to increase domestic oil and gas production to combat rising energy costs and aid European allies as they are trying to reduce their dependence on Russian oil.

António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, recently warned that the conflict in Eastern Europe could spell the end of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Monday’s report, compiled by 278 experts from 65 countries, is the third installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Global Assessment. The second report, released in February, analyzed climate impacts and vulnerabilities and warned that “the extent and scale of climate change impacts are greater” than previously known. The window to “ensure a livable and sustainable future for all” is rapidly closing, according to this document.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and reviewer of the new report, said the world was facing a “do or die moment”.

“If the last Sixth Assessment report was an atlas of human suffering and failing leadership, this report is an atlas of human hope and the last chance for the leadership we need from heads of state. to return to a safe climate,” Zaelke said. said in a statement.

John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, said the report “represents a defining moment for our planet.”

Every country must go further and faster,” Kerry said in a statement. “Faster means a rapid increase in the deployment of renewable energy. Faster means targeting methane emissions. Faster means reducing demand and focusing on efficiency. Faster means halting and reversing global deforestation. Faster means demanding more sustainable public transport.

“Choosing the most sustainable option is not only the right thing to do, but the IPCC has shown that it is now the most affordable choice,” Kerry added.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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