The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their latest report earlier this week, on April 4, 2022. This report from Working Group III (WGIII) covers potential for adaptation and mitigation, and follows two earlier reports on the physical science of climate change, and the impacts of climate change.
Current projections see the planet overshooting the 1.5°C warming limit
The report stressed that the current plans and pledges from nations are not enough to keep us on track to the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures. If business continues as normal, we are likely to reach 2.7°C of warming this century, or possibly higher.
A temperature increase greater than 1.5°C, even temporarily, would lead to incredible biodiversity loss, loss of human life, and other irreversible damages to our planet. With every year that mitigation efforts are delayed, it will become harder and harder to keep the 1.5°C goal alive. Each year of delay means more drastic measures will be required in shorter periods of time.
To keep the 1.5°C dream alive, greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, and must be reduced by over 40% by 2030. Even then, we are likely to overshoot the 1.5°C limit at least temporarily, although temperatures will stabilize once we reach net-zero carbon emissions.
In fact, if we still want a reasonable chance at keeping 1.5°C alive, the IPCC categorically stated that no more new fossil fuel infrastructure should be built, and that we should start phasing out existing infrastructure immediately.
Now more than ever, we need immediate and deep emissions cuts across all sectors.
Major changes are required especially in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors. Transitioning to low-carbon energy sources has also become easier in recent years, with solar, wind energy as well as lithium-ion batteries exhibiting sustained decreases in unit cost. Of course, in the transition to renewables, we must make sure that this doesn’t simply translate into an explosion in destructive extractives businesses in the
While at this point, carbon removal (removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) methods are necessary to keep the 1.5°C limit within the realm of possibility, the IPCC makes sure to emphasize that these should only be used to contain “residual” emissions from the different sectors of society. Issues of feasibility and capacity aside, carbon removal should only play a minor role; there is no alternative to major reductions in emissions.
System change now!
For too long the onus has been put on individuals to live sustainably, to reduce their carbon footprint, to bike or walk or compost. In 2020, we saw a 17% decrease in carbon emissions brought about by lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even this decrease was not enough to bring us down to the same emissions levels as circa 2000. This goes to show that individual actions like reducing transportation are not, and will not, be enough to stop the climate crisis.
The IPCC WGIII report talks about making changes in different sectors of society, in policy and law, and even in personal behavior. But these changes are insufficient to enact true, lasting change. We need an overhaul of our economic system.
To truly achieve a net-zero society, to achieve climate justice and social justice, we need to dismantle global monopoly capitalism. The current economic system has always and will always prioritize profit over the well-being of people and planet.
Banks and businesses continue to fund fossil fuels because it is profitable, and, at best, just add renewable energy investments on top of existing dirty ones to save face. The fossil fuel industry has historically lobbied against green legislation because it damages their bottom line. Under this system, we will never achieve a just, carbon-neutral world.
The IPCC WGIII report proposes ambitious changes, but these changes are not ambitious enough. The report continues to act as if capitalism would and should still govern us in 2020, in 2050, in 2100. This is unacceptable. Global monopoly capitalism and its profit-oriented, over-productive, over-extractive economic model is the reason for the climate crisis. It has no place in a climate-conscious world, in a just society.
Anything short of dismantling our current economic system is a band-aid solution at best, and deceptive at worst. The true solution to the climate crisis is system change, and, as the science has been reminding us year after year, we have no time to lose at this point.
Photo credit: Blew David