Trending

The world can turn around the climate crisis this decade, but governments need to step up

Business Insider US
An employee works among solar panels at Bemol Solar plant outside Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, on August 23, 2021. Bruno Kelly/Reuters
An employee works among solar panels at Bemol Solar plant outside Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, on August 23, 2021. Bruno Kelly/Reuters
  • The world can turn around the climate crisis this decade, hundreds of scientists concluded in a major UN report.
  • To avert the worst climate catastrophes, the world has three years to start cutting emissions.
  • Governments and corporations have to invest more money and political will, the report found.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

Governments and corporations across the planet have the tools to turn around the climate crisis in the next decade, hundreds of scientists concluded in a major climate report on Monday.

Humans are filling the atmosphere with more carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases than ever before. But there's still time to limit the planet's warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial standard, according to the report. That temperature cap would avert the most catastrophic climate change, including further mass animal and plant extinctions, significant increases in the frequency and severity of heat waves and droughts, and tipping points that could lock in even greater levels of warming.

To avoid heating the planet past that 1.5-degree goalpost, global emissions of heat-trapping gases must peak by 2025, drop to half their current level by 2030, and drop to zero by 2050.

A 2-year-old sits on a bench at Kali Adem port, amid high tides due to rising seas and sinking land, north of Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 20, 2020. Willy Kurniawan/Reuters
A 2-year-old sits on a bench at Kali Adem port, amid high tides due to rising seas and sinking land, north of Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 20, 2020. Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

The new 3,000-page report, from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), lays out a playbook to meet that ambitious timeline. It recommends transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, outfitting cities with electrified transportation systems and energy-efficient buildings, and deploying technologies that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

"We clearly have the tools to tackle the climate crisis. That's what the report shows. But they need to be deployed much more rapidly, on a larger scale, to keep 1.5 within reach," Stephanie Roe, a lead author on the report and a climate scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, told Insider.

Power-generating windmill turbines beside a church in Noreuil village, during sunset at a wind park near Cambrai, France, on March 18, 2022.Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Power-generating windmill turbines beside a church in Noreuil village, during sunset at a wind park near Cambrai, France, on March 18, 2022.Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

The problem is mustering the political will and financial resources to do it. The report identified just 18 countries that have consistently reduced their emissions over the last decade. Worldwide, financial investment in mitigation efforts would need to increase three- to six-fold in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, the report found.

Existing fossil-fuel projects, like coal plants and oil wells, are enough on their own to lock in warming that exceeds 1.5 degrees, the report found.

"Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they're lying and the results will be catastrophic," António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said in a press briefing on Monday.

"Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels," he added.

The last IPCC assessment before the crucial 2025 deadline

An employee holds a sample of crude oil at the Yarakta oilfield, owned by Irkutsk Oil Company, in the Irkutsk region, Russia, on March 11, 2019. Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters
An employee holds a sample of crude oil at the Yarakta oilfield, owned by Irkutsk Oil Company, in the Irkutsk region, Russia, on March 11, 2019. Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

The new report is the third installment of the IPCC's sixth assessment. The first portion, released last year, focused on physical changes to the planet. In February, the second portion assessed how those changes will impact humans and ecosystems.

The IPCC conducts the three-part assessment process roughly every six or seven years. This assessment was delayed several months by the Covid-19 pandemic. The last time the IPCC published a solutions-oriented report was in 2014, as part of its fifth assessment.

This time around, the solutions recommended in the report may be more doable, despite the rapidly approaching 2025 deadline for turning around global emissions. The cost of solar and wind energy has plummeted since the IPCC's fifth assessment, and new innovations have made renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies work better on a larger scale.

"I think we're actually pretty fortunate to be alive during this brief time in history, where we sort of understand the stakes, but have time to do something about it," John Bistline, a contributing author to the energy-systems chapter of the report, told Insider.

This will be the last IPCC assessment before the 2025 milestone. By the time the UN convenes scientists to make another such assessment, it will likely be too late to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.

Rand - Dollar
16.35
-0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.78
-0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.06
-0.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.17
-0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.3%
Gold
1,812.42
+0.1%
Silver
19.87
-0.1%
Palladium
1,951.00
-0.7%
Platinum
891.50
-0.1%
Brent Crude
111.63
+2.3%
Top 40
59,640
0.0%
All Share
65,662
0.0%
Resource 10
61,245
0.0%
Industrial 25
80,264
0.0%
Financial 15
14,564
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo