The world has less than three years to turn the tide of relentless fossil fuel consumption, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III (WGIII) report released today.
As per the report, the world can possibly meet its climate targets, but the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. In short, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 — that's less than 32 months away — at the latest if we are to avoid the worst impacts. Carbon emissions then must also be slashed by at least 43 percent by 2030, while methane would also need to be reduced by about a third.
Even if this all goes to plan, the planet will temporarily exceed the desired temperature threshold but it’s hoped it will return to below it by the end of the century.
“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” Jim Skea, a professor of environmental policy at Imperial College London and co-chair of the report, said in a statement “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
"Climate activists are sometimes portrayed as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing production of fossil fuels," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
The latest IPCC report focuses on climate change mitigation, looking at methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing greenhouse gasses that are already in the atmosphere.
They concluded that the world must now develop and roll out technology that can actively remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere if we want to stay below the desired target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C (2.7°F).
“The IPCC now says we HAVE to develop and deploy greenhouse gas removal schemes at scale if we want to stay below 1.5°C. There is no choice,” Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Director at the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, who was not involved in the report, commented.
“The issue is that funding for this needs to ramp up significantly and quickly. We need to look at not just land-based greenhouse gas removal schemes, but seriously investigate the oceans. We need to stop treating the oceans as a dumping ground in the same way we need to stop treating the atmosphere like that.”
As the report explains, governments need to support ways to remove emissions from the atmosphere, such as growing trees, trapping the emissions, or even turning carbon dioxide into rock. While some of this carbon capture technology is starting to become more scalable, it’s currently not enough to make a meaningful impact and we can not rely on carbon capture tech to undo the severe damage that has been inflicted on the planet.
“Removing carbon from the atmosphere will be necessary to achieve 1.5˚C but the latest IPCC report also shows that it won’t be a panacea," Taylor Dimsdale, Director of Risk and Resilience at E3G, an environmental think tank, said in an emailed statement. "To avoid worst-case scenarios and unmanageable impacts, the promise of negative emissions at some future point in time must not be used as an excuse to delay action on efficiency and the deployment of renewables now.”