IPCC report signals ‘final hour’ warning before time’s up

Smoke pours from industrial smoke stack (climate)
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The final report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Cycle is the final-hour warning before the clock runs out on 1.5°C, according to Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report, which integrates findings from the six reports the IPCC has published since 2018, lays out the extent to which climate change has already damaged the planet and life on earth, with further future damage now unavoidable and potentially irreversible. 

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Key findings:

  • The world’s existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C and with every additional increment of warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger
  • Current national climate commitments make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C.
  • However, in certain scenarios and pathways, global warming declines back to below 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century with immediate, deep and rapid emissions reductions
  • Current scenarios and pathways have us on track for a range from 1.4°C  for the very low emissions scenario through to 4.4°C for the very high emissions scenario 
  • All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C, involve rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade
  • Some future changes are unavoidable and potentially irreversible, with sea level rise unavoidable for centuries to millennia
  • For any given future warming level, many climate-related risks are higher than previously assessed, and projected long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said the IPCC’s final report was a screaming siren calling us to action.

“The emergency is upon us. We can see the impacts climate damage is having every single day—the floods, fires, storms, heatwaves, droughts, and rising seas that are overwhelming whole communities. 

“But the great source of hope is that we know the causes of this crisis and we have the solutions. We must cut emissions faster, and overcome the vested interests that corrupt our democracy and stand in the way of deploying vital solutions at vast speed and scale, to secure the survival of millions of people, whole ecosystems and innumerable species.

“In these times of emergency, we must hold our leaders to their words. At COP27, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen called for the ‘strongest possible action’ to limit global heating to 1.5°C. As this report is handed down, in Australia this means no new coal, oil, or gas projects, like Woodside’s monstrous Burrup Hub, and a much stronger Safeguard Mechanism than currently proposed. 

“Launching the government’s wildlife protection plan, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she will not ‘accept environmental decline and extinction as inevitable’. Nothing could be clearer—there can be no new coal, oil, or gas and we must see an end to deforestation.

“We still have agency in this planetary crisis. Great historic change is invariably nonlinear—we know the solutions and people, working together, can achieve practically anything. 

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“Political and business leaders have no excuses and must be held to account in this hour of supreme planetary need. Now is the hour, there must be action to reduce emissions at emergency speed and scale.”

The IPCC synthesis report comes on the eve of a historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly to ask the International Court of Justice—the highest court in the world—to issue an advisory opinion on climate change.

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