Earth Day 2022 takes place after two consecutive dire reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These reports drew on the work of thousands of scientists and took seven years to compile and be approved by the world’s governments.
The second part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report in March focused on the latest evidence on the distressing impacts of climate change. It details how the alarming “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt”.
The third and final part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report this April forewarns that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and must be nearly halved this decade to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The stark conclusion is that we are putting our “livable future” and those of future generations in grave peril. Our chances are narrowing according to the science, with only thirty months left before global greenhouse gas emissions must peak and drastically start to fall, a reversal that will require “immediate and deep” cuts in emissions everywhere. Or else, we will miss the chance to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Climate action in a distracted world needs focus and courage to be bold. With increasing global risks, the next few years are critical, these dire warnings ‘are being ignored’ and actions are delayed amid war and economic turmoil. The world is failing to make the changes needed and strengthened policies and actions from governments, businesses and individuals to avert the worst devastations of climate breakdown.
“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C,” according to Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and co-chair of the working group behind the report. He cautions, “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres reprimanded, “The world is on a ‘fast track to climate disaster. Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”
Importantly, the report also tells us we have the tools we need to reach our goals and we already know what to do:
– Coal must be effectively phased out if the world is to stay within 1.5C, and currently planned new fossil fuel infrastructure would cause the world to exceed 1.5C.
– Methane emissions must be reduced by a third.
– Growing forests and preserving soils will be necessary, but tree-planting cannot do enough to compensate for continued emissions for fossil fuels.
– Investment in the shift to a low-carbon world is about six times lower than it needs to be.
– All sectors of the global economy, from energy and transport to buildings and food, must change dramatically and rapidly, and new technologies including hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage will be needed.
The Earth Day movement was founded in 1970 and fifty-two years later, the actions needed to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods are distressingly overdue. We know we are the problem. We are also the solution and we are at a tipping point for transformational change.
It must be NOW!