Climate Change Can Still Be Turned Around, According To New UN Report

Every time a new climate change report suggests things are getting worse and humanity is rapidly approaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, you may feel tempted to panic a bit. The good news, however, is that scientists said in their latest climate report, which was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on April 4, that while the global temperature is still on track to hit the 1.5-degree limit set in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, it's possible to reverse course and keep that limit within reach this decade.

While we still have time to prevent the underwater submersion of coastal cities, severe heatwaves and droughts, loss of coral, and mass extinction, the report stresses governments and corporations should use that time and their resources wisely. The authors are counting on these entities to enact energy policies designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 — even though several countries have already started taking action.

"We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming," IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said. "I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation." 

How to turn down the heat by 2030

The IPCC climate report found that in order to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius, greenhouse gases, which have increased across all sectors since 2010, would have to peak by 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030. The authors added that methane emissions would also have to be curtailed by a third within the same timeline, which won't stop the temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial standard, but it'll help lower it back down below the threshold by the end of the 21st century.

The report placed heavy emphasis on the need for towns and cities to develop an energy-efficient infrastructure since urban areas release the most carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This means they would have to substantially reduce fossil fuels (if not eliminate them entirely), extend electricity to public transportation, increase the use of alternative fuels, and improve energy efficiency for buildings — something like, for example, Amazon is doing with some of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores. While they may be Herculean tasks, the IPCC notes those solutions are doable, citing the sharp 85% decrease in costs of solar and wind energy, as well as batteries.

If everyone follows all of the recommendations given in the report, it may be possible to cap global temperatures, assuming humanity can reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. All it takes is for governments and corporations, especially in the U.S., to take climate change seriously and stop greenwashing.