The world is not shifting quickly enough to a low-carbon economy, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which focuses on how best to cut carbon emissions, is expected to strongly indicate.
The global evaluation due to be published on Monday – the third of three major reports issued in the past eight months – will place a big emphasis on solutions and examine technical options including removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
A total of 278 scientists from 65 countries worked overnight on Saturday in an effort to get the "summary for policymakers" completed on time, while 195 governments including Ireland continued a line-by-line evaluation prior to its approval.
It will set out measures to cut emissions from the energy sector, agriculture and land, cities, buildings, industry and transport. It will also examine the key role of trees in capturing carbon, and is expected to emphasise the importance of changing consumer behaviour in securing buy-in for decarbonisation at scale.
Deployment of new technology to reduce human-induced emissions, however, could be its most controversial aspect, as it is largely unproven and climate activists claim it could distract from more immediate actions necessary; notably accelerated weaning of fossil fuels by halving emissions by 2030 with a view to ensuring the world is on course to achieve net-zero emission by 2050 at the latest.
Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the WG3 report sets out solutions to the crisis that leading climate scientists had already highlighted. The previous two reports, under what’s known as the AR6 global review, looked at the causes and impact of climate change.
WG3, he said, “sets out, in some detail, how we respond to the alarm and avoid the apocalyptic future we know we’re heading for if we don’t act. It is clear that the solutions are cheaper than the impacts – that acting to tackle the climate crisis is cheaper than not acting”.
He added: "It is now down to political leaders – particularly G20 leaders, as the largest economies and biggest emitters – to choose how bad we let things get."
On sea-level rise, last year’s WG1 report said the world could see an average rise of nearly 2m by 2100, though that is uncertain.
"My colleagues appear to now believe that, if accurate statements about the science are also seen as dramatic, then that's just reality, and we shouldn't pull any punches," said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University.
Some scientists worry, however, that countries with interests in fossil fuels – the main driver of global warming – will seek to downplay impacts or dangers in the report's summary. During closed-door negotiations over the WG2 report on adapting to a warmer world, released in February, oil-producing Russia and Saudi Arabia sought more emphasis on positive climate impacts. Most of their suggestions were not adopted.
Deborah Brosnan, adjunct professor of biology at Virginia Tech University in the US told the Observer on Sunday people were shocked by the Ukraine war and concerned about soaring prices, but the climate crisis also needed urgent attention.
“The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy playing out before our eyes, and families rightly fear being pushed into poverty by inflation. Yet we seem blind to the fact that an even larger and existential crisis is already unfolding today – one that will result in a global humanitarian crisis and on a scale never seen before,” she added
“We are on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming even if all countries meet their Paris Agreement emission reduction pledges,” the Stop Climate Chaos coalition of Irish civil society organisations said in advance of WG3’s publication. This would be “catastrophic and will be measured as a massive loss of lives livelihoods, biodiversity, ecosystems and food security,” it added.
We are on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming even if all countries meet their Paris Agreement emission reduction pledges,” the Stop Climate Chaos coalition of Irish civil society organisations said in advance of publication. This would be “catastrophic and will be measured as a massive loss of lives livelihoods, biodiversity, ecosystems and food security,” it added.
The report is expected to support ramping up renewables, energy efficiency, sustainable transport and other climate-friendly alternatives, as well as urging richer countries to step up climate financing to support adaptation actions to make countries more climate resilient for the inevitable impacts from the climate crisis, and compensate for losses and damages caused by climate change.
“Renewable energy and storage must be developed at pace as they are key to climate action and energy security. Renewable energy deployment continues to accelerate and outperform projections. Renewables are also now the cheapest source of power, with costs continuing to fall year on year,” SCC said.
It added: “Global fossil fuel production must decline immediately and steeply. Existing fossil fuel infrastructure must also be phased out now and new capacity must not be commissioned. We will not be able to remain below 1.5 degrees of warming by 2030 if existing fossil infrastructure continues to operate.”
Of particular concern was confirmation governments plan on producing 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with holding warming to 1.5 degrees and 45 per cent more than would be consistent with 2 degrees of warming, it said. – Additional reporting PA