A ‘liveable future’ depends on slashing emissions this decade, major climate report finds

The world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by half this decade, a new United Nations report urges. To achieve that goal, the world needs to move quickly to clean energy, reduce energy consumption and deploy technologies that could trap some of our planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution, the report’s authors say.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future,” Hoesung Lee, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in a statement. press release† “We have the tools and know-how needed to limit global warming.”

Hundreds of leading climate scientists took part in the report, which outlines: what is needed to avoid a total climate disaster. It boils down to one major call to action: “rapid and deep” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. It builds on previous research who finds that more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming would be devastating for people and wildlife around the world. We are alarmingly close to crossing that threshold. We could surpass it before 2030, today’s new report says.

But we could rewrite that grim future if major changes are made to halve emissions by this decade. The longer-term goal is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep global average temperatures stable.

The technology needed to achieve those goals is already within reach, according to the report. The cost of solar and wind energy and batteries to store renewable energy has already fallen to 85 percent since 2010. Similar price cuts in electric vehicles would reduce pollution from tailpipes. Ultimately, the authors say, there must also be changes in daily behavior to reduce energy expenditure in the first place. That means cities are easier to move around by walking, cycling or taking public transport. To do their part, investors can divest from fossil fuels and consumers simply consume less, an accompanying fact sheet says.

“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a news conference. “Such investments will soon be stranded assets, a blot on the landscape and a scourge on investment portfolios.”

However, the report leaves room for some lingering fossil fuel when combined with more controversial climate technology. That includes carbon capture technologies, which scrub the greenhouse gas from emissions before it can escape the chimneys. It is now “inevitable” to move to other technologies that remove CO2 from the air, the report says, if the world is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

That tactic soon drew criticism from some environmental advocates who feared the technologies will prolong the dominance of fossil fuels. “Carbon capture and storage, for example, cannot clean coal, make gas green or decarbonize oil,” Nikki Reisch, climate and energy program director at the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a statement. statement† “Relying on speculative technologies that extend fossil fuel use and deliver future emissions reductions or removals, after temperatures exceed 1.5°C, will cost lives and cause further irreversible damage.”

Today’s report is the third in a series of assessments on how climate change has already changed life on Earth. The first report, released last August, set out how human activities have made extreme weather events even more dangerous, among other climate-related threats. The second report, published in February, found the need for “transformative changes in our behavior and infrastructure” to adapt to climate change. You can read the third piece, released today, here

SOURCE – www.theverge.com

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