The warnings on climate change action are loud and clear, but the world needs those in power to urgently do something about it. That is the overarching message from the third and final report recently handed down from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its sixth assessment of published evidence on climate science, writes Gavin Dennett.
Drawing on the work of thousands of leading scientists, the latest IPCC report, handed down in early April 2022, states the world can still hope to stave off the worst ravages of climate change, but only through immediate action to establish a low-carbon economy and society.
IPCC reports take around seven years to compile, and scientists say this latest release is in effect a final warning before the world heads down an irrevocable path to climate breakdown.
“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” says Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London, and co-chair of the working group behind the IPCC report. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
The report states greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, and be nearly halved this decade to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Unless immediate policy change and action is enacted, temperatures could soar to beyond three degrees Celsius, with catastrophic consequences for the planet.
But in an ominous prediction, leading international climate scientists say the world is failing to make the necessary changes, and it is “almost inevitable” temperatures will rise above the 1.5 degrees Celsius level where the effects of climate change will become irreversible.
“Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another,” says UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.
“Simply put, they are lying, and the results will be catastrophic.”
The US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry calls the IPCC report “a defining moment for our planet”.
“The report tells us we are currently falling short in our battle to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis and mobilise the urgent global action needed,” he says.
“But the report also tells us we have the tools we need to reach our goals, cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, reach net zero by 2050, and secure a healthier, cleaner planet.”
The report makes it clear the way to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is through the massive deployment of wind, solar and energy storage.
“Renewable energy has been doing the lion’s share of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Australia,” says Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.
“It is proven technology with enormous potential to reduce carbon efficiently and cost-effectively long into the future.
“The Clean Energy Council is advocating for an electricity grid powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 to deliver emissions reductions of 44.5 per cent based on 2005 levels.
“This isn’t an ambitious or difficult target, it’s the low-hanging fruit and should be an absolute priority for the next Federal Government [post-election].”
Thornton says the Federal Government should be doing everything in its power to facilitate private investment in renewable energy in Australia.
“Continued policy uncertainty combined with challenges associated with connecting renewable energy projects to the grid has stunted the pipeline for new large-scale renewable energy projects, with the level of financial commitments falling by more than 17 per cent from $4.5 billion in 2020 to $3.7 billion in 2021,” he says.
“Renewable energy now accounts for 32.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity – a figure that’s almost doubled since 2017 – but now is the time to accelerate clean energy investment with the clock ticking for the fossil fuel industry.
“It is critical that industry, government, unions and communities work together to manage this inevitable transition so people and their communities aren’t left behind.”