Final UN climate report an emergency siren

IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report concludes 1.5 is still alive, but the path to survival must be lit by those on the frontline

SYDNEY, Tuesday 21 March 2023 - The final report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Cycle is the final-hour warning before the clock runs out on 1.5°C, and we must pull every lever to achieve the globally agreed objective, says Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report, which integrates findings from the six reports the IPCC has published since 2018, lays out the extent to which climate change has already damaged the planet and life on earth, with further future damage now unavoidable and potentially irreversible. 

IPCC AR6 key findings:

  • The world’s existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C and with every additional increment of warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger
  • Current national climate commitments make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C.
  • However, in certain scenarios and pathways, global warming declines back to below 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century with immediate, deep and rapid emissions reductions
  • Current scenarios and pathways have us on track for a range from 1.4°C  for the very low emissions scenario through to 4.4°C for the very high emissions scenario 
  • All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C, involve rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade
  • Some future changes are unavoidable and potentially irreversible, with sea level rise unavoidable for centuries to millennia
  • For any given future warming level, many climate-related risks are higher than previously assessed, and projected long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed

QUOTES

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said this report is a screaming siren calling us to action.

“The emergency is upon us. We can see the impacts climate damage is having every single day – the floods, fires, storms, heatwaves, droughts, and rising seas that are overwhelming whole communities. 

 “But the great source of hope is that we know the causes of this crisis and we have the solutions. We must cut emissions faster, and overcome the vested interests that corrupt our democracy and stand in the way of deploying vital solutions at vast speed and scale, to secure the survival of millions of people, whole ecosystems and innumerable species.

“In these times of emergency, we must hold our leaders to their words. At COP27, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen called for the ‘strongest possible action’ to limit global heating to 1.5°C. As this report is handed down, in Australia this means no new coal, oil, or gas projects, like Woodside’s monstrous Burrup Hub, and a much stronger Safeguard Mechanism than currently proposed. 

“Launching the government’s wildlife protection plan, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she will not ‘accept environmental decline and extinction as inevitable’. Nothing could be clearer – there can be no new coal, oil, or gas and we must see an end to deforestation.

“We still have agency in this planetary crisis. Great historic change is invariably nonlinear – we know the solutions and people, working together, can achieve practically anything. 

“Political and business leaders have no excuses and must be held to account in this hour of supreme planetary need. Now is the hour, there must be action to reduce emissions at emergency speed and scale.”

Prof. Dr. Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Head of Climate Science at Climate Analytics, stressed that despite the grave risks in failing to act, this report shows the Paris Agreement long term goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C is still within reach.

“1.5°C refers to human-made global warming and is calculated as a long-term average over 20 years or more. This is why if one year hits 1.5°C, or even several years in a row, this doesn’t mean we’ve reached that long-term average yet. At 1.5°C global warming we would expect that every second year would be above 1.5°C and we would only be able to say this with certainty in hindsight, probably up to 10 years after.

“The focus on 1.5°C being dead or gone is an unhelpful distraction from what needs to happen now, which is rapid emissions reductions this decade and a shift away from fossil fuels.”

Shiva Gounden, Pacific advisor, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said despite suffering the worst impacts, Pacific island nations demonstrate climate leadership that must be followed. 

1.5°C is still alive – but our last possible path to reach it is lit by those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We must follow their light to survive.

“Pacific island nations suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis, such as the recent devastation wreaked by twin Category 4 cyclones Judy and Kevin, but have historically contributed the least. This final report is resoundingly clear on the scale of the crisis facing the Pacific and the urgency needed, with low-lying coastal areas already reaching the limits of adaptation. 

“The peoples of the Pacific continue to confront the devastating reality of the climate crisis with hope, determination and courage. But we do more than deal with the consequences. These proud people know that our lands and ways of living are worth saving – and have the conviction and plan to do so. 

“Pacific island nations demonstrate global climate leadership from the frontline. The world must stand with them, starting with voting yes at the UN General Assembly next week on Vanuatu’s landmark bid to prevent climate harm through the world’s highest court.”

Reverend James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, said the report further codifies the Pacific’s leadership on climate action from the frontline.

“The IPCC synthesis report is the science to our lived realities. As the world looks at the rapid trajectory to and beyond 1.5°C, the Pacific is already suffering from the sin of high-emitting countries. Yet we persist; battered by extreme weather, our island nations are joining the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. But right now we are in the fight for our right to exist. We need rapid transitions to truly renewable energy and increased finance to support our efforts to be resilient, to live.”

Anjali Sharma, 18yo climate activist and lead litigant in Sharma v Environment Minister, the landmark court case which called for a duty of care to protect children against the impacts of climate change, said:

“This report is not only a damning indictment on the polluters and governments of generations past, but a wake up call for leaders now to drastically scale up their efforts to combat climate change if the world is to save the future for generations to come.

“The reality of the climate crisis is already devastating and this report lays clear the scale of the devastation future generations face, with some changes like sea level rise unavoidable and potentially irreversible.

“This is the world being handed to my generation, in which we are expected to construct our lives. We do not have the privilege of time, the bliss of ignorance, the safety of desensitisation. But with 1.5°C still alive, we must act – radically, urgently, and together – to force governments through the crack in the window of opportunity to secure a liveable future for generations to come.”

The IPCC synthesis report comes on the eve of a historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly to ask the International Court of Justice – the highest court in the world – to issue an advisory opinion on climate change.

 

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