June 24, 2024
Fighting climate change will take ‘everything, everywhere, all at once,’ say U.N. scientists

Fighting climate change will take ‘everything, everywhere, all at once,’ say U.N. scientists

“ ‘Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.’”

— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

That’s the plea in the latest science-driven update on global warming from the United Nations, as the organization’s secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, connected the scope of the issue and the billions of people affected to “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which took the award for best picture at this year’s Oscars. The critically acclaimed sci-fi adventure is about saving mankind, with its protagonist exploring other multiverses and lives she could have led.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change routinely issues researched updates on emissions-cutting efforts to date, including related topics such as plastics abuse, rising oceans, and who is paying for climate-change mitigation.

The most recent update lays down tougher language, in particular for wealthier nations such as the U.S., about moving faster to help the world meet the goal of holding warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). That was the average temperature target set out at the IPCC’s meeting in Paris in 2015, and it continues to guide the thus far voluntary climate pledges of national governments, private businesses and other groups.

Keeping on track toward this goal requires slashing carbon pollution by nearly two-thirds as soon as 2035, the IPCC said Monday. It’s the first time in the several updated reports since 2018 that a target of this size and time frame has been assigned to pollution from coal, oil CL00, +0.43% and natural gas NG00, -3.92%.

The U.N. chief didn’t soften the call. Guterres urged an end to new fossil-fuel exploration and pushed rich countries to quit coal, oil and gas by 2040.

“Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast,” he said. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Guterres urged the developed world to rely on carbon-free electricity generation by 2035, which also means no gas-fired power plants. Natural gas for decades has replaced dirtier coal in powering the electricity grid.

That date is key because under the Paris climate agreement, nations must soon come up with goals for pollution reduction by 2035.

The unusual process of having countries sign off on the scientific report is intended to ensure that governments accept its findings as authoritative advice on which to base their actions.

At the start of the meeting, Guterres called on delegates to provide “cold, hard facts” to drive home the message that there’s little time left for the world to limit global warming to the 1.5-degree target.

While average global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, Guterres insisted that the 1.5-degree target limit remains possible “with rapid and deep emissions reductions across all sectors of the global economy.”

A lag in processing complete data for the report means that these calculations about fossil-fuel projects already in the pipeline do not include the increase in the use of coal and natural gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the European Union and countries elsewhere worried that they wouldn’t be able to obtain enough traditional energy sources given sanctions on Russia, said report co-author Dipak Dasgupta, a climate economist at the Energy and Resources Institute in India.

The report hits just a week after the Biden Administration approved the huge Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska, which could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

Read: Republicans’ pro-drilling energy bill is DOA. It’s still a rebuke of Biden’s climate agenda and a 2024 weapon.

Observers said the IPCC meetings have increasingly become politicized as the stakes for curbing global warming increase, according to the Associated Press. That mirrors the annual U.N. climate talks that usually take place at the end of the year.

In a controversial appointment, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the head of the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned energy concern, has been named the president-designate of the U.N. climate conference that the UAE will host later this year.

Read: Big Oil must decarbonize quicker, says UAE energy exec running the next U.N. climate summit

“The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts for thousands of years,” Monday’s U.N. report said, calling climate change “a threat to human well-being and planetary health.”

The report offers hope, as long as action is taken, using the word “opportunity” nine times in a 27-page summary. However, that is overshadowed by the 94 uses of the word “risk.”

“We are not on the right track, but it’s not too late,’’ said report co-author and water scientist Aditi Mukherji. “Our intention is really a message of hope, and not that of doomsday.’’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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