As the world battles historic droughts, landscape-altering wildfires and deadly floods, a landmark report from global scientists says the window is rapidly closing to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes that would transform life as we know it.
The state-of-the-science report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders agreed warming should remain below to avoid worsening impacts.
Only by making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can we halt the precipitous trend.
“Bottom line is that we have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s here,” Michael E. Mann, a lead author of the IPCC’s 2001 report, told CNN.
Unlike previous assessments, Monday’s report concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis and confirms that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred, some of them irreversibly.
That is due in part to the breakneck pace at which the planet has been recently warming, faster than scientists have previously observed. Since 2018, when the panel published a special report on the significance of 1.5-degrees, greenhouse gas emissions have continued mostly unabated and have pushed global temperatures higher.
Even under the IPCC’s most optimistic scenario, in which the world’s emissions begin to drop sharply today and are reduced to net zero by 2050, global temperature will still peak above the 1.5-degree threshold before falling.
In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report “a code red for humanity,” and noted the 1.5-degree threshold is “perilously close.”
“The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and pursuing the most ambitious path,” Guterres said.