The final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report report is out. The Synthesis Report is the latest cycle of reports produced by the world’s leading scientists every seven to eight years.
The Synthesis Report summarizes six separate research completed over the past five years, “based on the content of the three Working Groups Assessment Reports: WGI – The Physical Science Basis, WGII – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, WGIII – Mitigation of Climate Change, and the three Special Reports: Global Warming of 1.5°C, Climate Change and Land, The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.”
The summary report gathered the key findings of all these reports and highlighted the actions and decisions governments and authorities must take to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. UN chief Antonio Guterres said the new report should serve as a “survival guide for humanity.”
The BBC article, “Five things we’ve learned from UN climate report,” presented a breakdown of the Synthesis Report that is easy to understand which is crucial if our individual actions can contribute to reducing our collective emissions – the root cause of climate change.
First, it is more likely than not that we will overshoot the 1.5°C by 2030. Exceeding the Paris Agreement temperature limit is dangerous and will likely push the world past dangerous tipping points from which there is no possibility of return, as scientists have said.
For example, it will melt the glaciers, which will also release significant amounts of GHG, further increasing the earth’s warming. The focus should be given to coming back down as quickly as possible after overshooting the mark. Carbon capture technology, still unproven and costly, is one thing that could help pull back temperatures from overshooting.
Second, weaning our energy from fossil fuel sources and shifting to renewables is important – making it our main energy source. Renewables getting cheaper will allow us to transition much quicker than before.
Third, human beings can reduce emissions from the demand side of the business, and by changing our behaviour, we can slash between 40 to 70% of projected 2050 emissions. This behaviour change includes consuming more plant-based food, avoiding flights, and building more walkable and bikeable cities.
Fourth, our actions and decisions will resonate for many centuries. Our actions within the next seven years will make an impact many years into the future.
A sustained warming of between 2 to 3 °C will melt all the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which will remain for thousands of years. To stop this, it is vital that governments will have to keep their commitments before 2023 and reach net zero by 2050 to keep warming within 1.5°C.
Lastly, the political will of governments is crucial, especially in deciding the future of fossil fuels. Even though governments agree with the science of the IPCC reports, acting on it is becoming political, the article says.
The Guardian article, “Eight things the world must do to avoid the worst of climate change” also gave their take on the IPPC’s AR6 Synthesis Report and presented what governments must do to avoid climate change’s worst and irreversible impacts:
First is to slash methane emissions. Sharp cuts of our global methane emissions from oil and gas operations, coal mines, and agriculture and dairy industries could cut more than half a degree of global warming.
Although methane is a short-lived GHG, staying around 20 years in the atmosphere before degrading into CO2, it is 80 times more potent in warming the planet than CO2. Slashing methane emissions is the best way to slow near-term warming.
Second is to stop deforestation. Especially in the Amazon and Congo, the world’s largest carbon sinks and hotspots for biodiversity. Protecting the earth’s important forests also preserves the diverse species and the Indigenous people who live there.
Third, restore other degraded land and stop transforming it into agricultural use. Wetlands and peatlands store vast amounts of carbon but are increasingly drained for agricultural activities. Protect mangroves and seagrass meadows that store carbon and mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and storms.
Other measures to protect the ocean’s health are to stop overfishing, cut subsidies for industrial fishing and allow natural marine ecosystems to regenerate, restoring some of the natural carbon cycles of the oceans.
Fourth, changing agriculture and our diets. Shifting to a more plant-based diet and reducing our consumption of dairy and meat will also reduce the nitrous oxide emitted from fertiliser used to grow food, not to mention methane gas produced by livestock. One-third of all the food produced goes to waste, so finding solutions to cut food waste from the sources up to the consumption side of things is vital.
Fifth, boosting the uptake of renewable energy such as solar and wind.
Sixth, improving energy efficiency can help achieve net-zero targets. The IEA required a 4% improvement in energy efficiency from 2020 to 2023. Although energy efficiency increased by 2.1% from 2010 to 2015, it slowed down to 1.4% from 2015 to 2020. When applied in individual households, energy efficiency can lower bills and collectively save countries billions of dollars in energy use.
Seventh, stop burning coal. Replacing coal with gas to produce energy can slash GHG emissions more than making all buildings energy-efficient. China, on the other hand, has recently approved the biggest expansion of coal-fired plants since 2015, according to the article. India and Australia are countries that consider coal as important to their national energy security.
Lastly, put climate at the heart of all decisions and make climate and environment ministers at par with finance and business ministers. Mainstreaming climate action in all government departments is the only solution to make any changes needed and would bring benefits to all sectors – economy (sustainable livelihoods and businesses), health, society and infrastructure by making it more resilient.
McGRath, M. (2023, March 21). Five things we’ve learned from UN climate report. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-65013560
Harvey, F. (2023 March 21). Methane to food waste: eight ways to attempt to stay within 1.5C. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/21/methane-to-food-waste-eight-ways-to-attempt-to-stay-within-15c