Humans’ harmful impact on the planet is already “locked in” for decades but the climate crisis could get much worse, the United Nations has warned today.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a report released today that without rapid and large-scale action to cut down emissions, global temperatures are set to increase – and pass the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold in the next two decades.
In response, Greta Thunberg tweeted: “The new IPCC report contains no real surprises. It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports – that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.”
The new IPCC report contains no real surprises. It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports – that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science. 1/2— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 9, 2021
And followed that up with: “It doesn’t tell us what to do. It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis.”
It doesn't tell us what to do. It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis. 2/2— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 9, 2021
Alarm bells over global heating
“Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘code red’ for humanity,” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said.
He added: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.
“Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible .
“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
There have also been floods across European countries which caused people to die in Germany, Belgium, Romania, Austria and Italy.
Guterres called for government leaders and all stakeholders to come together to avoid a “climate catastrophe” – and stressed there is “not time for delay and no room for excuses”.
Next decade ‘pivotal’, says Boris Johnson
Prime minister Boris Johnson labelled today’s report as “sobering reading”, and called for the world to “take action now”, before the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.
Johnson said: “It is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet.
“We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”
But there are already climate change-related problems in every part of the world according to Friederike Otto, IPCC lead author and associate director at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.
Ice-free Arctic by 2050
Otto said there are actions people and world leaders can take to prevent worsening effects by staying within the targets.
Another IPCC lead author, Helene Hewitt, told Reuters that previous papers might have underestimated the pace at which the Arctic sea is melting.
She said: “Now we are combining multiple lines of evidence which suggest that we might see a practically sea-ice-free Arctic for the first time by 2050 under all scenarios.”
Last month, Cop26 president Alok Sharma said recent heavy rain and flash flooding in the UK is a reminder for Britain to urgently tackle climate change.
But although he said last year was the hottest on record and the last decade was the hottest on record for the UK, he said the government will continue to support new fossil fuel projects.
Sharma has also been caught in controversy recently over reports that he has travelled to 30 countries in seven months, whilst encouraging people to limit their carbon emissions.
At Cop26, Sharma will have to convince countries such as China, India, Australia and Brazil to commit to policies which will cut their emissions.