A total of 131 countries are discussing, have announced or have adopted net zero targets, covering 72% of global emissions. If fully implemented, estimates of projected global average temperature increase to 2.0–2.4 °C by 2100, with respect to pre-industrial.
Currently implemented policies will increase warming by 2.9–3.2 °C, and pledges submitted to the Paris Agreement will increase warming by 2.4–2.9 °C.
Plants with red spikes are the world’s ten biggest polluters (all of which rely primarily on coal).
Findings suggest that instead of relying on sweeping environmental initiatives, substantial environmental progress can be made through selectively targeting nations’ hyper-polluters—the worst-of-the-worst—that are responsible for the lion’s share of their carbon pollution. As the fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure continues to expand and the urgency of combating climate change grows, nations will likely need to consider more expedient strategies of this sort.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the global electric power sector rebounded in the first half of 2021 to above pre-pandemic levels, according to an analysis, signalling that the world has failed to engineer a “green recovery” and shift decisively away from fossil fuels.
“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world. We are not building back better, we are building back badly,”
The Energy Information Administration, part of the Energy Department, forecast that the U.S. economic recovery and a changing fuel mix would lead to a “significant increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions this year.”
It is a worrying sign that China, the world’s largest [greenhouse gas] emitter’s focus on a fossil-fuelled industrial recovery is at odds with its long-term goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2060.
Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak in the next four years, coal and gas-fired power plants must close in the next decade and lifestyle and behavioural changes will be needed to avoid climate breakdown, according to the leaked draft of a report from the world’s leading authority on climate science.
Rich people in every country are overwhelmingly more responsible for global heating than the poor, with SUVs and meat-eating singled out for blame, and the high-carbon basis for future economic growth is also questioned.
The top 10% of emitters globally, who are the wealthiest 10%, contribute between 36 and 45% of emissions, which is 10 times as much as the poorest 10%, who are responsible for only about three to 5%, the report finds. “The consumption patterns of higher income consumers are associated with large carbon footprints. Top emitters dominate emissions in key sectors, for example the top 1% account for 50% of emissions from aviation,” the summary says.
The report underlines the lifestyle changes that will be necessary, particularly in rich countries and among the wealthy globally. Refraining from over-heating or over-cooling homes, walking and cycling, cutting air travel and using energy-consuming appliances less can all contribute significantly to the reductions in emissions needed, the report finds.
Eating patterns in many parts of the rich world will also need to change. “A shift to diets with a higher share of plant-based protein in regions with excess consumption of calories and animal-source food can lead to substantial reductions in emissions, while also providing health benefits … Plant-based diets can reduce emissions by up to 50% compared to the average emission intensive western diet,” the report says.
The investment needed to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing is also missing. Current investment falls below what is needed “by a factor of five”, even to hold warming to the higher limit of 2˚C, according to the report.
“If we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth,” says Prof Tim Palmer at the University of Oxford.
Governments that continue to fail to take action have nowhere left to hide – the crystal-clear report has bust all of their alibis. “Too many ‘net-zero’ climate plans have been used to greenwash pollution and business as usual,” says Teresa Anderson at ActionAid International.
The gravity of the situation laid out in the report blows away blustering over the supposed costs of climate action. In any case, not acting will cost far more. “It’s suicidal, and economically irrational to keep procrastinating,” says Prof Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.
The IPCC’s report means all the evidence that will ever be needed is now in place. “The continued dithering to address climate change is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but directly tied to a lack of political will,” says Kristina Dahl of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change. [This] will be followed next year by two further instalments: part two will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis; and the third will detail the potential solutions.
António Guterres, the UN secretary general: “[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK: “The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”
Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, and an IPCC lead author: “This report is likely to be the last report from the IPCC while there is still time to stay below 1.5˚C”. “It shows we can stay within 1.5˚C but only just – only if we cut emissions in the next decade,” he said. “If we don’t, by the time of the next IPCC report at the end of this decade, 1.5˚C will be out the window.”
The [UK] government claims that it is doing enough to comply legally with the Paris Agreement, concluded six years ago in the French capital. Even if it is not, it argues, there are no grounds for the courts to intervene: it is for it alone to weigh the economic and environmental arguments.
In its reply to the claimants’ case, it says of its climate policies: “Any inadvertent and indirect discriminatory impacts would fall well within the UK’s margin of appreciation, and be objectively and reasonably justified, if they could be established by the claimants.”
Earth’s temperature is projected to hit 1.5˚C or 1.6˚C around 2030 in all five scenarios—a full decade earlier than a similar prediction the IPCC made less than three years ago.
The news gets worse.
By mid-century, the 1.5C threshold has been breached across the board—by a tenth of a degree along the most ambitious pathway, and by nearly a full degree at the opposite extreme.
The glimmer of hope for 1.5˚C is that by century’s end Earth’s surface will have cooled a notch to 1.4˚C under the most optimistic “if-we-do-everything-right” storyline.
A brief overshoot does not mean the target has been missed, scientists caution.
But long-term trajectories do not look promising in the other four scenarios.
Temperature increases by 2090 forecast range from a hugely challenging 1.8˚C to a catastrophic 4.4˚C.
“There is definitely a difference of opinion among scientists about whether the 1.5C target is reachable,” Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and an authority on climate tipping points, told AFP.
Some experts who think 1.5C is mission impossible simply avoid the subject to avoid casting a pall over efforts to ramp up climate action, he added. “They don’t discuss it.”
“We find that there is a substantial mismatch between likely warming rates and research coverage. 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios are substantially overrepresented. More likely higher end warming scenarios of 3 °C and above, despite potential catastrophic impacts, are severely neglected.“
To meet an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, California’s policymakers are relying in part on forests and shrublands to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere, but researchers warn that future climate change may limit the ecosystem’s ability to perform this service.
Studies have estimated that the 2012-2015 drought killed more than 40% of ponderosa pines in the Sierra Nevada range. Another issue is the loss of trees from California’s worsening wildfire situation.
Carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high by 2023 as just two percent of pandemic recovery finance is being spent on clean energy.
“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record”.
This backing for coal, oil and gas is “reckless” in the face of the escalating climate emergency, according to the report’s authors, and urgent action is needed to phase out the support. The $3.3tn could have built solar plants equivalent to three times the US electricity grid.
60% of the fossil fuel subsidies went to the companies producing fossil fuels and 40% to cutting prices for energy consumers.
“The positive feedback, where deforestation and climate change drive a release of carbon from the remaining forest that reinforces additional warming and more carbon loss is what scientists have feared would happen. Now we have good evidence this is happening.”
Fires produced about 1.5 billion tonnes of CO₂ a year, with forest growth removing 0.5 billion tonnes. The 1 billion tonnes left in the atmosphere is equivalent to the annual emissions of Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest polluter.
Even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean the south-eastern Amazon has become a source of CO₂, rather than a sink.
The French government said that it would drop its plans to enshrine the fight against climate change in the Constitution, effectively giving up on what was seen as a major step in the country’s environmental commitments.
Kelp are essentially the ocean’s equivalent of trees, capturing up to 20 times more carbon per acre than land forests. They also provide a vital habitat for a broad range of marine life; without them, entire ocean ecosystems would crumble.
Chair of CCAG, Sir David King said: “I believe we have five years left to get on top of this global problem. We began talking seriously about climate change in 1992, yet we are now in a worse position with growing emissions and rising risks—watching greenhouse gases increase year after year.”
“But we’ve also let this problem get to the point where rapid emission reductions alone won’t be enough—we also need to develop ways to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to preserve critical parts of the Earth system while we still can.”
“Carbon dioxide going up in a few decades like that is extremely unusual”. “For example, when the Earth climbed out of the last ice age, carbon dioxide increased by about 80 parts per million and it took the Earth system, the natural system, 6,000 years.”
By comparison, it has taken only 42 years, from 1979 to 2021, to increase carbon dioxide by that same amount.
“The world is approaching the point where exceeding the Paris targets and entering a climate danger zone becomes almost inevitable,”
“If we allow fossil fuel burning to continue to grow, our grandchildren may experience CO₂ levels that haven’t been seen on Earth for around 50 million years, a time when crocodiles roamed the Arctic.”