According to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nations are not doing nearly enough to prevent global warming from increasing to dangerous levels within the lifetimes of most people on Earth today. The report says that it isn't impossible if countries act now.
A comprehensive overview of climate science is produced by the panel every six to eight years. The findings are divided into three reports. The first on what is driving global warming came out last August. The second report on climate change's effects on our world and our ability to adapt was released in February. We can cut emissions and limit further warming.
The report makes it clear that current pledges to curb greenhouse-gas emissions most likely will not stop global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. Assuming countries follow through. Even more warming is on the way if they don't.
Many world governments have agreed to pursue the goal of preventing the average global temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels. It sounds small. As greenhouse gases trap more heat on the planet's surface, there are a number of changes that occur, including deadlier storms, more intense heat waves, rising seas and extra strain on crops. Since the 19th century, Earth has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius.
The report says that the world isn't becoming more energy efficient quickly enough to balance out continued growth in global economic activity.
Carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, buildings, farms and vehicles increased in the 2010s, outweighing the benefits from power plants using more renewable sources such as wind and solar.
The richest people and wealthiest nations are heating up the planet. According to the report, the richest 10 percent of households are responsible for between a third and half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Around 15 percent of emissions are contributed by the 50 percent of households that are poor.
Since 2010, the prices of solar and wind energy, and electric vehicle batteries have dropped. The result is that it may now be more expensive to maintain highly polluted energy systems than to switch to clean sources.
In 2020, solar and wind provided close to 10 percent of the world's electricity. Increased use of green energy helped to slow the growth of average worldwide emissions.
It was not obvious to scientists that this would happen so quickly. In a report on renewable energy in 2011, the panel said that it was hard to say how much green energy would cost.
If the world wants to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, it needs to invest three to six times more than it is currently spending. Poorer countries need trillions of dollars of investment each year because of the lack of money.
The report notes that economic disruption is inevitable as nations drop fossil fuels. Resources will be left in the ground without being burned. The report says the economic impact could be trillions of dollars.
The report says that keeping planned and existing fossil-fuel infrastructure up and running will make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.
More energy-efficient buildings, more recycling, and more white-collar work going remote and virtual are some of the changes the report looks at to reduce emissions.
The report emphasizes that these changes don't have to be economy-dampening chores. Joyashree Roy, an economist at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok who contributed to the report, said that some of the benefits for air pollution and overall well-being include better public transit and more walking.
The report says that steps that would cost less than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide saved could lower global emissions by half. Other steps, such as capturing more of the carbon dioxide from the gases that pour from smokestacks at power plants, are more expensive.
The world needs to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The only way to do this at a large scale is to plant more trees. Other methods, like using chemicals to extract atmospheric carbon, are still in their infancy.
The author of the report with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth in Kyoto, Japan said that they cannot ignore how much technology can help.