Posted on 20 March 2023
A report from the UN exposes the sheer gravity of the climate crisis, the increasingly severe impacts facing people and nature and the many solutions we already have.
The latest science on the state of our climate has been laid out in a powerful new report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Sixth Assessment Report
shows how climate change is altering our planet and highlights the many solutions that governments, businesses, cities and individuals can, and must, take to tackle it.
These are the report’s key findings:
Our climate system is in code red status
The science is super clear: our climate system is in crisis, and it’s because of our actions. Climate change is driven by human activities; primarily burning polluting fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and destroying nature. The last time CO2 levels in our atmosphere were this high was over two million years ago. We’ve already warmed the planet by 1.1°C since pre-industrial times, and this is causing dangerous disruption in nature and impacts on people across the world.
And we’re not slowing down. Global greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2019 were higher than any previous decade in human history.
Limiting warming to 1.5°C is crucial and we’re way off track
1.5°C is an important number when it comes to our climate. That’s because impacts beyond 1.5°C of warming would get even worse. There would be more frequent and stronger extreme weather events and it would be harder - in some cases impossible - for people and nature to adapt, especially as some changes (like species extinction) are irreversible. Governments across the world agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the Paris Agreement to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and secure a livable future.
The latest science shows that we have to cut emissions much more, and much faster - we need to reduce them by 43% by 2030 (just seven years away!) to limit warming to 1.5°C.
We can adapt and be more resilient, but there are limits
Our planet and its people are resilient - but some of the impacts are simply hitting too quickly and too forcefully to adapt in time. The longer we delay taking action, the fewer options we have.
This is crucial because according to the IPCC, around 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. The climate crisis is a daily reality for so many people. Since 2008, over 20 million people per year have been internally displaced by weather-related extreme events. While communities, governments and businesses around the world are working on solutions to adapt to our warming world, progress is still uneven and insufficient.
We already have all the solutions we need
There is some really great news in the report too: we already have affordable solutions to limit warming to 1.5°C. Around 20 countries are living proof that it’s possible to reduce emissions, and clean energy is cheaper than ever before - in the last decade, the cost of solar energy and lithium-ion batteries (used for energy storage) decreased by a massive 85%, while wind energy costs dropped by 55%. There has been exponential growth too - like with the roll-out of electric vehicles, which has increased 100 fold.
The best thing about all these solutions? They can also benefit lives, livelihoods and nature, allowing us to build our societies and economies in a more sustainable way.
We have to quit fossil fuels
It’s also clear that while we move towards solutions like renewables, we also have to phase out the polluting energy sources (coal, oil and gas) that are the biggest cause of the climate crisis. We simply can’t keep warming to 1.5°C without changing our energy system - the IPCC confirms that emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure alone would blow through our remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C.
Nature is our ally
The science shows how incredible nature is - it has slowed global warming
and helped protect us from more severe impacts of a warming world. The world’s oceans, plants, animals and soils have absorbed 54% of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions of the past 10 years.
Nature is a non-negotiable part of the solution to the climate crisis.