The urgency is rising, but so is the opportunity to act to reduce emissions.
Climate change is happening faster with its impacts becoming progressively worse, but it isn’t too late to act to ward off climate catastrophe, say scientists from the Australian National University who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest global report.
“The latest IPCC report triggers many alarm bells that we cannot afford to ignore,” says Prof. Mark Howden, one of the authors of the report. “It makes it crystal clear that climate change has rapidly altered the atmosphere, oceans, land and ice-covered areas. This has generated more severe extreme weather events and widespread negative impacts on lives, livelihoods and natural systems.”
In almost all emission scenarios, the scientists say, warming is set to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius within a decade. Acting fast and decisively, however, we can still save the planet from the effects of far more excessive warming.
“The choices we take now will have consequences in coming decades and potentially for thousands of years,” the Australian scientist warns.
The IPCC itself stresses that immediate action on climate change can still yield great benefits if we are to limit warming to manageable levels in coming decades.
“Every increment of warming avoided reduces future climate change damages and risks. And every ton of emissions avoided means less warming,” explains Prof. Frank Jotzo, another lead author of the report.
“If we keep going as we are, we won’t be able to keep global temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Jotzo elucidates. “The good news is there is lots of action already under way and lots of opportunities for action. We know what needs to be done and we have the technology.”
These actions include turning the global economy onto a net-zero CO2 pathway through low-cost means that can also bring other environmental benefits, the scientist says.
“Examples include the shift from coal to clean energy, better land management and agricultural practices, and the beginning shift towards electric vehicles,” Jotzo explains.
“Experience shows that clean technology becomes rapidly cheaper when governments apply suitable policies and businesses invest at large scale,” he adds.
“The urgency is rising, but so is the opportunity to act to reduce emissions.”