Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, 194 parties representing countries around the world agreed to limit a global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. By reducing carbon emissions and pursuing environmentally-friendly energy solutions, the agreement stated we could stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Eight years later, most countries have still not done enough to fulfill their climate commitments, barreling us toward higher temperatures sooner than expected. In the latest report released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), published on Monday, the world’s leading climate experts predict that the 1.5°C temperature rise is likely to take place around “the first half of the 2030s.”
The IPCC report draws on information released in the panel’s six previous publications, outlining the causes and effects of climate change, as well as mitigation tactics. Published each year since 2018, the reports represent the most comprehensive look at how global warming affects our environment.
Though nations have taken some steps to reduce their emissions in the past 10 years, no effort made so far is enough to prevent temperatures from reaching a 1.5°C rise by the end of the century. Currently, the Earth has already warmed 1.1°C since the industrial age, but an increase to 1.5°C would lead to even deadlier consequences for our environment and populations.
At this temperature, the sea level is expected to rise by 10 to 30 inches, putting 10 million more people at risk of coastal storms and flooding. Extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity; flooding will force millions of people to migrate away from coastal areas, while heatwaves and droughts will lead to higher instances of food insecurity and malnutrition, as staple crops won’t be able to withstand the high temperatures. A larger percentage of the Earth’s population will experience climate-related illness and death.
At today’s temperature, those living in low-income countries (LICs) are already experiencing the worst effects of climate change compared to the rest of the world, despite being the least responsible for causing climate change. How global warming affects these populations in the future depends on whether wealthier nations change course immediately.
Our thoughts are with the people of Malawi, Madagascar and Mozambique after the devastating cyclone. The #IPCC report warns us of the dangerous impacts of #ClimateChange, we must remember that these scary scenarios are already a reality for many #LDCs. We need to act now. https://t.co/wFSCQT9sJq— LDC Chair (@LDCChairUNFCCC) March 20, 2023
The world’s biggest emitters — China, the United States, and India — contribute 42.6% of total greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. As this latest IPCC report was being written, all three nations have continued to greenlight fossil fuel projects that undermine their investment in green energy.
Still, the report lays out “multiple, feasible, and effective options” that are currently available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help populations adapt to climate change. These include increasing investment in solar, wind, and electric energy, forest conservation and restoration, halting and reducing oil and gas projects, and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through existing and new technologies.
Enacting the report’s solutions requires significant investment — according to current numbers, governments and companies would need to spend three to six times the $600 billion they currently spend each year on clean energy. In addition, UN Secretary-General António Guterres proposed a “Climate Solidarity Pact,” under which wealthier nations would agree to finance climate solutions for emerging economies.
“It will take a quantum leap in climate action,” Guterres said during a press conference on Monday. “In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”
The climate time-bomb is ticking but the latest @IPCC_CH report shows that we have the knowledge & resources to tackle the climate crisis.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 20, 2023
We need to #ActNow to ensure a livable planet in the future. https://t.co/smE3Rk0eNy
Despite the IPCC report’s urgent tone, climate scientists have highlighted how valuable current green energy projects have been to stave off outcomes that were once predicted to be inevitable. Before the 2015 Paris agreement, experts predicted the planet would experience a 3 - 4°C temperature rise before the end of the century, a future that is now considered “unlikely” due to climate mitigation efforts.
Even with the certainty of a temperature increase over the next decade, we still have a chance to prevent the 1.5°C rise from taking place so soon. Only increasing our focus on sustainable climate action will help us achieve our goals — starting now.
Key decision-makers are currently meeting in Denmark (on March 20 and 21), at the Copenhagen Climate Ministerial — the first political high-level meeting following November's UN Climate Change Conference COP27. We're urging those at the ministerial meeting to lay a path to a successful COP28 delivering on the Paris agreement later this year, by supporting critical measures such as: delivering the promised $100 billion per year in climate finance; phasing out all fossil fuels; using solidarity taxes to unlock new financing to support the fight against climate change; and more. Join our call by sending our tweet to government ministers at the Copenhagen meetings.
You can also join Global Citizen around the world in urging world and business leaders to listen to scientists’ warnings and take urgent and widespread climate action NOW.