UN Panel Finds a Few Signs of Hope in Climate Fight

We're at a 'crossroads,' but it's not too late to prevent warming above 1.5C
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2022 1:32 PM CDT
UN Panel Finds a Few Signs of Hope in Climate Fight
Wind turbines turn behind a solar farm in Rapshagen, Germany.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

(Newser) – The fight against climate change is not going well, to put it mildly, but it's important not to lose hope, experts convened by the United Nations say in a landmark new report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the report shows the world is "at a crossroads." It says the goal of limiting warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit—1.5 degrees Celsius—is still possible, but it will be out of reach by the end of this decade if efforts including the shift away from fossil fuels aren't massively stepped up, the New York Times reports. More:

  • "Now or never." The report said that to hit the target, greenhouse gas emissions, which are rising again after dipping during the pandemic, need to peak by 2025 and be reduced by 43% by the end of the decade. "It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible," says Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group behind the report, per the Guardian.

  • Signs of hope. The report found that clean energy technology has progressed much faster than expected over the last decade and many governments are taking climate change a lot more seriously, the Times notes. The report said a lot more money needs to be spent to reduce emissions—and inaction, leading to more climate-related disasters, will be a lot more expensive than investing in clean energy.
  • Untapped potential. The report noted that Africa, which has been experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change, has enormous untapped potential for renewable energy projects but has received just 2% of global investment in the field over the last 20 years. "Africa’s vast renewable energy sources should be a priority not just for the continent but also for the world racing to fulfill the net zero ambition," says energy expert Max Bankole Jarrett, per the AP.

  • Removing carbon. The report noted the importance of removing carbon from the air by protecting forest and wetlands and planting more trees. The panel's experts said carbon capture technology could also play a role, but current technology isn't effective enough to make much of an impact, the Times reports. "If technology could solve the problem completely, the problem could have been solved two or three decades ago," says co-author Wei Shen.
  • "We're not talking about transition anymore." That ship has sailed—or, more like, failed to sail," says lead author Julia Steinberger, per CNBC. "Instead, the report is very much focused on transformation." Steinberger, a professor at Switzerland’s University of Lausanne, says that while the world is currently on the wrong track, the report contains positive elements. "For the first time in human history, we have the technologies available to us that allow us to live comfortable lives without consuming ginormous amounts of energy," she says.
  • Fighting "doomism." Researchers stress that all hope is not lost—and even if humanity fails to reach the 1.5 degrees goal, reducing emissions will still reduce the impact. "The big message we’ve got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again," Skea says. “It’s not all lost. We really have the chance to do something." University of Maine climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill tells the AP that she has seen many people go from denying climate change to saying it's too late, but it's important to fight "doomism." "We are not through a threshold or past the threshold," she says. "There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis."
(Read more climate change stories.)

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