IPCC report: Many changes to climate are irreversible now, says Guterres

The United Nations Secretary-General calls for complete pause on coal plants after 2021 during the launch of the 6th IPCC report

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Monday 09 August 2021
IPCC report: Many changes to climate irreversible now, says UN chief

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its report on climate change — termed the largest ever with inputs from over 14,000 scientific papers — and the first after 2013.

The report, IPCC Working Group I Report on the Physical Science Basis of the Sixth Assessment, has grim forecasts on how global warming has impacted and will impact us in the near future.

“The IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement on the forecasts.

One can’t miss the report’s timing. All the continents are under the grip of extreme weather events.   

Guterres said:

The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: Greenhouse gas (GHG) 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.

Details are just coming out of the report, but scientists are more confident now to attribute the extreme weather events to human-induced global warming and the consequent change in the climate.

In the last report in 2013, scientists were reluctant to attribute extreme weather events like the ones impacting the world to climate change. But the new report seems to have firmly ascribed these to global warming.

The planet was “perilously close” to the threshold warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the UN chief, who quoted the report.

“We are at an imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term. The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up our efforts and pursuing the most ambitious path,” said Guterres, adding, “We must act decisively now to keep 1.5 alive.” 

The planet has already reached a 1.2°C warming level.

In 2018, the IPCC’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C had estimated that two-fifths of the global population lived in regions with warming above 1.5°C.

“Warming has accelerated in recent decades. Every fraction of a degree counts. GHG concentrations are at record levels. Extreme weather and climate disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity,” the UN chief said. 

He called for a drastic and immediate cut in carbon emissions, given that the changes to the climate already made are not reversible.

“All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net-zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow,” he said.

Identifying the energy sector where immediate action is needed to curb GHG emissions, he called for “a death knell for coal and fossil fuels”.

“There must be no new coal plants built after 2021. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040,” he said.

By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net-zero trajectory by mid-century, the UN chief added, emphasising the report’s grim forecasts. 

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